FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Thursday 18 January 2024
The Pesticide Collaboration calls for the UK Government to end the cycle of permitting the ‘emergency’ use of banned pesticide thiamethoxam.
The government is once again ignoring the advice of its own experts. This year the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) advised against allowing thiamethoxam – a highly bee-toxic neonicotinoid – to be used due to the potential adverse effects on honeybees and other pollinators which outweigh any likely benefits. 
But today, the government has authorised its use for another year,  despite calls from civil society, including from The Wildlife Trusts, to break this cycle of yearly authorisations. 
These banned pesticides are lethal to wildlife – a single teaspoon of neonicotinoid is enough to deliver a lethal dose to 1.25 billion bees. Thiamethoxam was banned in the UK in 2018. However, the UK Government has now skirted this ban four years in a row, disregarding evidence on the devastating impact on bees.
This decision comes on the same day as the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) published a report which found that the government is not on track to meet their commitment to reducing the use and impact of pesticides. 
Friends of the Earth sustainability campaigner Sandra Bell said:
“The government is reneging, yet again, on its promises to protect the environment.
“The continued use of neonicotinoids is putting our bees at risk and polluting our rivers, there are very good reasons why they were banned. The harmful effects of these pesticides has been known for over a decade giving British Sugar time to find safe alternatives – in fact this was a condition of being allowed ‘emergency use’ for the last three years.
“It’s time the government puts nature and wildlife first by upholding the ban and supporting farmers to end the use of bee-harming pesticides for good.”
Kyle Lischak, ClientEarth’s UK Head said:
“Last year, against the advice of experts, the government approved a pesticide that’s been banned in the EU because of the risks it poses to bees. We believe this approval was in breach of environmental law and undermined the essential role of pollinators to both our food production and our wild plants. We are concerned by the government’s decision to grant emergency authorisation for neonicotinoid seed treatments again this year and we will be reviewing the decision carefully.
The government must honour their commitments in the Environmental Improvement Plan to support farmers – custodians of our natural environment – in making the switch to using environmentally sustainable methods of pest control, instead of continuing to approve pesticides that carry risks of environmental harm.”
CEO of Buglife Matt Shardlow said:
“Thiamethoxam is highly toxic to bees and aquatic life, it is a banned pesticide that breaks down into another highly toxic banned pesticide. Recent evidence from Ireland shows that several years after Thiamethoxam was banned it was still occurring at harmful levels in wildflower pollen and nectar collected by bumblebees. This indicates that it is highly likely that the UK derogations will have resulted in continued harm to bee populations as well as water pollution. Defra must present environmental data showing that it understands the impact of this derogation on wild pollinators and water life.” 
Stephanie Morren, Principal Policy Officer at RSPB said:
“Although famously toxic to bees, neonicotinoid pesticides can also impact other wildlife in water and on land. As one example, treated seeds left on the surface can be eaten by birds or mammals. Studies from the University of York and RSPB found that neonicotinoid-coated seeds were left exposed on fields, and birds feeding on them contained neonicotinoid residues in their blood or liver. 
The government must listen to advice of their own expert committee and urgently commit to supporting farmers to find nature-friendly alternatives rather than relying on further authorisations of a harmful, banned substance, year after year.”
The party that forms the next government, following the general election this year, must set out a path to end the repeated ‘emergency’ authorisations of banned pesticides that have been granted for neonicotinoids in recent years.
The emergency authorisation process was not designed for repeated year-on-year authorisations like we’re seeing, so the next government should commit to action to ensure it isn’t exploited to allow continued use of banned substances.
The UK must also fund research into alternatives for all pesticides that are granted emergency derogations, including the use of neonicotinoids such as thiamethoxam on sugar beet crops.
For further information please contact Amy Heley at email@example.com / 07753241803
About the Pesticide Collaboration
The Pesticide Collaboration brings together health and environmental organisations, academics, trade unions, farming networks and consumer groups, working under a shared vision to urgently reduce pesticide-related harms in the UK, for a healthy future. Throughout all our work we aim to tackle the root systemic drivers of pesticide reliance and overuse, and advocate for the solutions required to tackle them.
Notes to editor: