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Government faces backlash over decision to approve use of ‘bee-killing’ pesticide

The EU had previously imposed a ban on the use of the pesticide

The government has come under criticism over its decision to approve the use of what is allegedly a ‘bee-killing’ pesticide.

The criticism from environmental groups and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg arose after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) authorised a product containing neonicotinoid to treat sugar beet seed this year.

The EU had previously imposed a ban on the use of the pesticide.

Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive Officer of conservation group Buglife, said: “We are very upset, this is an environmentally regressive decision by Defra, destroying wildflowers in the countryside to prevent them transferring insecticides to bees, is obviously beyond the pale.

“In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet.  Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018, they are still going to harm the environment.

“The new question is how will the increased use of herbicides on field margins and hedgerows add to the onslaught being experienced by insect populations.”

Commenting on the reports, Greta Thunberg wrote on Twitter: “UK Government has announced a ‘bee-killing pesticide so poisonous that is banned by the EU’ may be used in England.

“New coal mines and pesticides, the UK’s so-called ‘green industrial revolution‘ is off to a great start’.

Defra said sugar beet seedlings are vulnerable to predation by aphids which have the potential to spread beet yellows virus.

Aphids are insects that suck the fluids from plants, damaging crops.

According to official figures, sugar beet crops have been severely affected and 2020 yields are forecast to be down by up to 25% compared to previous years.

Defra explained the neonicotinoid Syngenta’s Cruiser SB will provide emergency protection while the beet industry develops alternative solutions. It added that the pesticide’s exceptional use will be strictly controlled.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. Emergency authorisations are used by countries across Europe.

“Pesticides can only be used where we judge there to be no harm to human health and animal health and no unacceptable risks to the environment. The temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators.”

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