Surely East Sussex County Council is disregarding current scientific evidence and acting beyond the boundaries of its expertise in banning neonicotinoids on county council land?
Its own officers recommended the motion by Councillor Ros St Pierre be rejected ‘because there is inconclusive evidence on the use of neonicotinoids’ (neonics).
But there are some important principles at stake here. The use of these crop protection products has been restricted (not banned) by the European Union. Indeed, neonics are still being lawfully used in parts of the UK to protect oilseed rape crops from a pernicious pest – the cabbage stem flea beetle.
Oilseed rape is one of Europe’s most important crops, with different varieties producing cooking oil, lubricants and biofuel. The council’s decision is ironic as much of its land is grassland – and neonics aren’t used on pasture! This ill-conceived ruling angers farmers because the last thing we want to do is to harm pollinators – bees are vital for the pollination of crops, from oilseed rape to fruit. We actively encourage pollinators on our farms by providing pollen and nectar sources.
We await the results from detailed, landscape scale trials on neonics that are currently comparing treated and non-treated cropping areas and bee populations. Decisions should be based on sound science and a body of evidence that has been peer reviewed. The county council’s ban not only ignores the current evidence base – it pre-empts a decision from Europe and the results of these landscape scale trials.
East Sussex NFU chairman