A report published by the BBC said the use of one type of neonicotinoid on sugar beet was “based on robust scientific assessment,” according to a Defra representative.
The use would be subject to severe constraints. Craig Bennett, the Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trusts, called it “scandalous.” Bees and other pollinators’ neurological systems and navigational abilities have been proven to be harmed by this class of insecticides, according to studies. Pesticides can also end up in streams and rivers, causing harm to aquatic species and persisting in the environment for a long period.
Because of the potential risk of yellows viruses, which are spread by aphids and can severely harm crops, the government is now authorizing one type, thiamethoxam, to be used on sugar beet in England in 2022. It is estimated that over 70% of the country’s sugar beet harvest will be damaged.
The decision “was not taken lightly,” according to a Defra official. “We carefully assess the dangers and only issue temporary emergency pesticide authorizations in exceptional cases where severe standards are met and there are no other options.”
Sugar beet is grown by 3,000 farmers, according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), and the wider industry supports roughly 9,500 employment in England, mostly in the East. Farmers will be prohibited from planting flowering plants for 32 months following the sugar beet season to reduce threats to pollinators. “Growers would be relieved,” said NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly. “The government’s limited and controlled emergency authorization for growers to use neonicotinoid seed treatment was to provide them with the tools they needed to combat this disease in the case of significant pest pressure, which we must remember resulted in crop losses of up to 80% in 2020.”
“It must be asked how permitting even temporary use of these poisons while harming our diminishing bee populations is compatible with reversing wildlife loss. Farmers, on the other hand, must be supported in order to lessen our reliance on these dangerous pesticides.