The environment secretary Michael Gove has today announced that the UK will finally back a total ban on insect-harming pesticides across Europe.
This decision effectively reverses the earlier position of the government after it had initially questioned the scientific findings from studies about the use of the pesticides.
The ban would stop the use of neonicotinoids, the most widely-used insecticide in Europe, after it was found that the chemical was having a devastating impact on bee populations.
Bees are a vital cog in the ecosystem that allows us to grow crops at the scale we currently do. They’re a key pollinator and yet in the UK they’re increasingly under threat from disappearing altogether.
Writing in the Guardian about his decision, the environment secretary points to a shocking statistic from a study which found that in Germany a staggering 75% of all flying insects had gone.
“Environmental change on such a scale is profoundly worrying.” he writes. “Not least because of the critical role played by bees and other pollinators. These particular flying insects are absolutely critical to the health of the natural world.”
In a statement about the decision, the government points out that the UK’s 1,500 species of pollinators are worth between £400-680million every year thanks to the increased productivity they provide.
Commenting on the governments decision the British Beekeepers Association welcomed the decision saying that it was “pleased that the government is offering to work with farmers to develop an alternative approach to treating crops.”
However it goes on to warn that, “we remain concerned however that any alternative treatments used do not cause harm to honey bees and other pollinators.”
According to the BBKA, almost one in three mouthfuls of food in the UK are produced with the help of bees.
Taking a tough stance on insecticides won’t be enough to revive the fortunes of the honeybee however.
As a report from 2014 points out invertebrate numbers in general have actually declined by 45% over the past 35 years while the human population has doubled.
Habitat destruction is believed to be the main cause of this, with the same report noting that areas inhabited by beetles, butterflies, bees and wasps have 30-60% decline in the last 40 years.