The importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy is clear and I share your concern about declining bee numbers.
I support the current European-wide ban on the use of neonicotinoids on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators because I believe that it is a proportionate response to the mounting scientific evidence which demonstrates the risk of neonicotinoids to bees.
The UK Government has said that current environmental regulations – including the ban on neonicotinoids – will remain in place until we leave the EU. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is reviewing the scientific evidence and there are draft proposals for a full EU ban on the three most commonly used neonicotinoids. I support such a ban and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so.
Rachael Maskell MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) at the time, raised concerns in July 2016 about the protections that would be put at risk when leaving the EU. The current Shadow DEFRA Secretary has stated that “support for the EU Commission’s proposed ban on these three substances is an important step towards ensuring a healthy environment for bees and other pollinators.”
By contrast, Conservative MEPs have attempted to frustrate the process of banning neonicotinoids, and the Government’s policy is now unclear. In June 2017, the Labour leadership noted that “scientific evidence is mounting” and wrote to Michael Gove to seek clarification of the Government’s current position on neonicotinoid pesticides.
It is vital that we take a science-led approach to pesticide use and consider how best to support farmers, protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators. I would like to see further research into identifying suitable substitutes to neonicotinoids and support for integrated pest management measures which would benefit the farming community without posing risks to the environment, and human or animal life.
As you know, there will soon be a vote on the neonicotinoids ban and I can assure you that as a member of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee I will be urging the UK Government to show leadership within the EU by following evidence-based policy and pressing for a ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids. I will also write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP and ask him how he intends to ensure that existing environmental protections are maintained and enhanced once the UK has left the EU.