Thursday, 11 May 2017

Why has Labour included bees in its manifesto?

Leaked draft says Labour will protect bees by banning all neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to species decline

Sandra Laville

Thursday 11 May 2017 12.43 BST Last modified on Thursday 11 May 2017 13.37 BST

If you were wondering why bees popped up in the Labour party’s leaked manifesto this week, then here’s the answer.

Since 1900 about 20 bee species have become extinct in the UK and 35 more are now at risk.

According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, between 1980 and 2010, 51% of pollinator species – including all bee species and wasps – became less widespread, with 36% showing a strong decrease.
The threats to the diversity of bee populations include climate change, loss of habitat and – evidence suggests – use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

But the extent to which neonics, as they are known, are the cause of bee population declines is contested between environmental campaigners, and farming and pesticide groups who say their use is vital for crop protection.

In 2013 the EU imposed a partial moratorium on three neonics – imidacloprid and clothianidin, produced by chemical company Bayer, and thiamethoxam, produced by Syngenta.

Until now the moratorium on neonics has only covered their use on flowering crops, which in the UK are predominantly oil seed rape.

Labour in its manifesto adopts a tougher position – one the EU itself is considering introducing. If elected the party would impose a ban all neonicotinoid pesticides, which would stop them being used on non-flowering crops such as wheat and sugarbeet. One of the most recent studies on the impact of neonics on bees was published last year by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. It suggested their use correlated with “wild bee biodiversity losses at a national scale.” 

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