In a decision shrouded in secrecy and opposed in a petition signed by over 500,000 people, the UK government has moved to suspend an EU ban on pesticides that have been shown to cause serious harm to bees. The move came in response to an “emergency” application from the National Farmers Union (NFU), who claim the neonicotinoid pesticides are needed to protect crops from the flea beetle, but environmental and wildlife groups have deemed the decision “scandalous.”

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Bees and other pollinators are themselves absolutely vital to the health of crops, but their populations have been in decline as a result of disease and pesticides. In December 2013, an EU ban on pesticides that contain neonicotinoid chemicals was enacted to help slow colony collapse disorder, with EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg stating, “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

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But the UK government was steadfast in their opposition to the ban. While they rejected an earlier “emergency” application from the NFU to suspend the ban nationwide, the government took secretive measures that included asking independent advisers to keep minutes of meeting private in hearing a second emergency application. Those closed meetings have resulted in the temporary lifting on the EU ban on a limited basis.

Two neonicotinoid pesticides produced by Bayer and Syngenta will be permitted for use for 120 days on around 5 percent of England’s oil seed rape crop, an area that will cover around 30,000 hectares. The EU ban itself will expire in December this year.

In a statement, Friends of the Earth campaigner Paul de Zylva said, “It’s scandalous that the government has caved in to NFU pressure. Ever more scientific evidence shows just how dangerous these chemicals are to bees and other pollinators… The NFU’s campaign to undermine the pesticides ban has given an impression of large crop losses nationwide, but this is not supported either by the scientific evidence or harvest figures.” The data presented to the government by the NFU remains undisclosed.

Via The Guardian

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