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Gove backs bee pesticide ban; BREXIT.

Byline: graeme whitfield graeme.whitfield@ncjmedia.co.uk

AGOVERNMENT U-turn on pesticides has re-ignited the debate on pest control in the farming community.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced earlier this week that a total ban on bee-harming pesticides in the countryside across Europe will be supported by the UK and kept in place after Brexit.

In a reversal of the government's previous position on "neonicotinoid" pesticides, Mr Gove said new evidence indicated the risk to bees and other insects from the chemicals was "greater than previously understood".

Mr Gove held out an olive branch to farmers by saying he was committed to the continuing use of glyphosphate as a herbicide, though a vote on that issue at the European Commission was indecisive.

Since 2013, the EU has banned three neonicotinoids for use on certain crops such as oil seed rape, after authorities identified risks to honey bees.

The UK government initially opposed the ban, claiming there was not enough evidence that bees were harmed by the pesticides, but other member states disagreed and the ban was implemented across the EU.

The European Commission has since proposed restricting the three neonicotinoids to only allow use on plants in greenhouses, which would extend the ban to crops such as sugar beet and winter cereals with seed treated with the chemicals.

Research estimates the value of the UK's 1,500 species of bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects to crops as being around PS400m to PS680m a year due to increased productivity.

They are also a key part of wildlife food chains.

Mr Gove, a leading Brexiteer, said he wanted to see a "Green Brexit" in which environmental standards were not only maintained but enhanced.

"The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our PS100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood.

"I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk."

He added: "I recognise the impact further restrictions will have on farmers and I am keen to work with them to explore alternative approaches both now and as we design a new agricultural policy outside the European Union."

Reacting to that statement, Dr Chris Hartfield, NFU acting chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said: "Farmers are acutely aware that bees play a crucial role in food production.

"Farmers rely on bees to pollinate crops and have planted around 10,000 football pitches of flower habitat across the country to support a healthy bee population and give them a good home.

"We deeply regret the decision the government has taken on this issue as we don't believe the evidence justifies this abrupt change in policy. We will continue to speak to the government about how the impact of the decision can best be mitigated so that farmers can maintain sustainable and productive cropping systems."

Also this week, a vote at the European Commission failed to resolve a controversy over the use of glyphosate, the world's largest-selling weedkiller.

The current glyphosate licence runs out in the EU on December 15. Only half of the 28 member states - including the UK - backed a European Commission proposal to renew the licence for five years, meaning the issue was not resolved.

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: "Once again we are left in a situation where no decision has been made on the reauthorisation of glyphosate - one of the safest plant protection products on the market which secures so much environmental benefit in terms of better soils and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"Allowing member states to continue playing politics over this decision despite overwhelming science and evidence showing glyphosate's safety does nothing but undermine the credibility of the EU's regulatory bodies and the entire regulatory process.

"We ask the Commission to stand by its own science and regulatory procedure, and re-authorise glyphosate for the maximum period possible. It cannot stand by and allow the issue to be politicised any longer."

The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment... I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use.We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at riskMichael Gove

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A total ban on bee-harming pesticides in the countryside across Europe will be supported by the UK and kept in place after Brexit
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 11, 2017
Words:730
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