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Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Green Party Backs Insecticide Petition

The Green Party will be handing in a petition to the government today to outlaw the use and sale of neonicotinoid pesticides in the UK, which have been increasingly implicated in the decline of honeybees and wild bees over the past decade. Pippa Bortolloti, leader of the Wales Green Party, will simultaneously hand in the petition to John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development. In France, Italy and other countries these insecticides have already been restricted. In Britain and the USA however, their use continues. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett will be handing in the petition with prominent bee campaigner and Facebook Cause Leader Brigit Strawbridge. It will be the first time in history that a petition gathered via social media will be delivered to the UK government by the leader of a political party.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has served on an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry that has investigated the risks posed by neonicotinoids, and has written repeatedly to the Government to demand a ban on their use after a number of studies showed negative effects on bee populations.
She has also exposed evidence suggesting that European regulators have turned a blind eye to data on the danger that one of the world’s biggest selling pesticides could pose to bees and other pollinators. Ms Lucas said: “Bees play an essential role in our ecosystem and declining numbers are a huge threat to UK agriculture – the authorities have a duty to act on these risks”.

Malcolm Higginbottom, founder of the petition and Chairman of Good is Planet Earth, said: “This petition is a timely step in the right direction. The hand in will be prior to The European Food Standards Agency meeting on February 25 2013, which follows a Dutch delegation calling upon the European Commission to take action. A number of member states support the proposal, including France, Poland and the Czech Republic. 
Italy has introduced restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, Slovenia has already imposed a full ban, and some national retailers in the UK including B&Q and Home Base have acted to remove neonic related products from their shelves amid growing public concern of pollinator collapse and potential food shortages. A study commissioned by Friends of the Earth finds that having to pollinate crops without the help of bees would cost the UK almost £2 billion a year in higher food prices. This huge annual bill amounts to what it would cost to hand-pollinate crops if bees died out in the UK. As Lord Jones of Cheltenham said in a debate in the House of Lords (January 10 2013), the population decline of bees and other pollinators needs to be treated as a National Emergency."

“A study led by Stirling's Professor David Goulson showed that growth of bee colonies slowed after the insects were exposed to "field-realistic levels" of imidacloprid, a common neonicotinoid insecticide. The production of queens, essential for colony survival, declined by a massive 85 per cent in comparison with unexposed colonies used as a control. 
In another study, a French research group also investigated the impact of a different neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam, on the number of bees able to make it back to the colony with food. Calculations showed that cognitive impairment of forager bees at sub-lethal doses was bad enough that colonies would be severely compromised. BeeTheChange, a Facebook based Social awareness group, run by have submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee and other consultations, calling on the UK government to take preventative action to protect pollination species.”

The hand-in of the petition will take place at Defra’s headquarters (Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London) at 2pm today.