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Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner condemns government for approving use of bee-killing pesticide against expert advice

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner has condemned the government for approving the emergency use of a pesticide known to kill bees.

Cruiser SB, a product containing the previously banned neonicotinoid thiamethoxam, can be used in 2022 to treat sugar beet seed, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced.

Thiamethoxam is known to kill bees
Thiamethoxam is known to kill bees

Secretary of state George Eustice said the decision was made due to the danger posed to the year’s crop from beet yellows virus.

He imposed conditions - such as permitting use only if the “predicted virus incidence level is 19 per cent or above” on March 1, 2022 and ruling that no flowering crops can be planted in the same field as treated sugar beet within 32 months.

But wildlife campaigners were left outraged, with the Wildlife Trust saying the government had “disregarded the advice of top UK health and safety experts by authorising its use for the second year in a row” and warning that it “causes catastrophic damage to wildlife”.

“Just one teaspoon of thiamethoxam is enough to kill 1.25 billion bees,” said the trust.

Labour MP Mr Zeichner, the shadow minister with national responsibility for pesticide use, said the government had done a U-turn on pollinator protection, breaking their guarantee from 2017 to uphold the ban after leaving the EU.

He told the Cambridge Independent: “The health of our bees is non-negotiable. But as with dumping untreated sewage into our rivers, and their ongoing failure to tackle poor air quality, the Conservatives simply cannot be trusted to protect our environment. The government has ignored the advice of their own expert scientific advisers to approve this bee-killing pesticide.”

Environment secretary George Eustice. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
Environment secretary George Eustice. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

He pointed to the advice from the Health and Safety Executive, which warned the “potential adverse effects to honey bees (and other pollinators)... outweigh the likely benefits”.

Mr Zeichner added: “Labour backs our farmers. Lifting the ban on bee-killing pesticides is not the answer. Sugar beet farmers need better support, including on resistant crops and allowances for crop loss to be included in sugar contracts.

“Fortunately, weather conditions last year meant that there was no need to use this pesticide, but there is no guarantee that our bees will be lucky again this year. Labour would not have over-ridden the expert advice.”

Announcing the decision, Defra said: “Potential risks to bees can be mitigated to a low level and, with the strict controls, are outweighed by the benefits of use in these circumstances.”

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2021 - Neonicotinoids: Cambridge MP demands vote after Defra grants emergency use of pesticide harmful to bees

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