NFU says only an evidence-based strategy will help protect bees

The NFU has strongly disagreed with the new Environment Audit Committee report on the National Pollinator Strategy which has called for a refocus to deliver a precautionary, hazard-based approach to pesticide use to help protect bees.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith stressed that farmers above all were concerned with and understood the need to protect bees, whose pollination activity is worth £510million to agriculture and horticulture.

Mr Smith said: “Farmers need crop protection materials to grow crops and if they stop growing pollen rich crops such as oilseed rape then bees will be one of the main losers.

“The NFU believes that the National Pollinator Strategy needs to continue to focus on evidence-based actions that will deliver real benefits for bees, particularly to provide more of the food and habitat they need and not be drawn into promoting ineffective approaches, regardless of their apparent popularity. It is not the role of the National Pollinator Strategy to deliver a precautionary hazard-based approach to pesticide use.”

NFU lead on bee health Dr Chris Hartfield said: “Focusing attention on the use of neonicotinoids is a simplistic take on what is a hugely complex issue. If this approach is followed it will fail to help our bees and other pollinators by continuing to ignore the evidence we have. The evidence shows that while pollinator diversity has declined significantly since the 1950s, this decline has slowed in the last two decades. In fact, the diversity of our solitary bees (which make-up around 90 per cent of our bee species), has increased significantly since 1990.

“Neonicotinoid insecticides were introduced to the UK in 1994, so the main declines in pollinator diversity pre-date neonicotinoids by some decades. Furthermore, a recent scientific review has shown clearly that there is currently no evidence that pollinators, foraging naturally in and around treated crops, are picking-up doses of neonicotinoids that are causing harmful impacts on their populations.

“Farmers and growers use crop protection products in order to produce food and plants of the right quality and quantity. They remain vital to modern, sustainable farming systems.”

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