Western Morning News
MP and minister clash over ‘bee killer’
PLYMOUTH Labour MP Luke Pollard has urged the Government to ‘save the bee’ by halting an exemption to the ban on pesticides which are known to be fatal to the pollinators.
Mr Pollard, the Shadow Environment Secretary, failed in his bid to add an amendment to the Environment Bill over the temporary lifting of the ban on neonicotinoids, for use on sugar beet.
Farmers will be able to apply for emergency use of the chemicals for the treatment of sugar beet seed in 2021.
But Environment Minister and Taunton MP Rebecca Pow, speaking for the Government, defended the “emergency authorisation” for a neonicotinoid seed treatment for sugar beet and insisted it was in line with EU regulations retained in UK law. Ms Pow insisted pesticides are subject to “strict” regulation and an assessment of risks to people and the environment must also take place.
She told MPs: “I know all this because I grew up on a farm. On the decision to grant an emergency authorisation for a neonicotinoid seed treatment for sugar beet, a non-flowering crop, this is fully in line with the EU regulations that were retained in UK law at the end of the transition period.
“Ten member states, including Belgium, Denmark and Spain, granted similar emergency authorisations in 2020. I’d like to assure members of the strict conditions attached to this decision.”
Mr Pollard’s amendment would have placed a requirement on ministers to allow parliamentary scrutiny of pesticide exemptions, but it was defeated by 366 votes to 221, majority 145.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Pollard said: “If bee health really is non-negotiable, then this ban must not be set aside just because it’s convenient to do so now.
“There’s no doubt that sugar beet farmers have been hit hard by crop blight, but lifting this ban is not the solution.
“Improved sugar contracts, compensation and accelerating blight-resistant varieties offer a much better answer.”
He added: “Today, Labour MPs will vote to save the bees and the Government will whip Conservative MPs to allow the ban on bee-killing pesticides to be lifted.
“In the year Britain hosts Cop26, when we should be a showcase for environmental best practice, when we should shine as a force for good, a beacon nation, we will be allowing more bees, more pollinators, to be killed by neonicotinoid pesticides.”