I am in no doubt about the importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy and am concerned about declining bee numbers. There are many reasons for the decline of pollinators, including habitat loss, climate change and pests and diseases. The European Commission announced in 2013 that it would restrict the use of neonicotinoids to crops that are not attractive to bees and other pollinators after the European Food Safety Authority concluded that three commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides pose an unacceptable danger to bees. More evidence has appeared since the ban – including a study published in the Nature Communications journal and research published last year by Sussex University – which emphasises the risk of neonicotinoids to bees. The current European-wide ban is a proportionate response to the evidence.
Before the referendum on UK membership of the European Union, the government said that it would base its view on future regulation on all the available scientific evidence. The government says that it has an open mind to considering the evidence. This is welcome given its previous opposition to the ban. However, I remain concerned that many environmental protections are at risk following the outcome of the EU referendum, for instance, the potential use of neonicotinoids after the UK has left the EU. Until the UK does leave the EU, EU law will still have effect in the UK and the government has said that current arrangements for our environment – including in relation to the ban on neonicotinoids – will remain in place until we leave.