For the second year in a row, British Sugar has been successful in their application for the use of thiamethoxam on sugar beet in England. And for the second year in a row, the Government has approved this harmful neonicotinoid pesticide against the recommendation of their own expert advisors.

Neonicotinoids were banned for agricultural use in the UK and the EU in 2018 due to their devastating impact on bees. Even minute traces of these toxic chemicals in crop pollen or wildflowers play havoc with bees’ ability to forage and navigate, with catastrophic consequences for the survival of their colony. A recent study showed that even one exposure of a neonicotinoid insecticide had significant impacts on their ability to produce offspring in future years.

Both the Health & Safety Executive and the Expert Committee on Pesticides have clearly recommended against emergency authorisation of thiamethoxam. As well as the harm posed to bees and other pollinators, they concluded that the levels of pollution resulting from the proposed emergency use would exceed limits in place to protect river life.

This highlights once again, the urgent need for farmers to be supported to use nature-friendly alternatives to pest and disease control, and the need for investment into research into alternatives to toxic pesticides.

It is deeply worrying that the Government is ignoring expert advice, and failing to prioritise the health of the natural world. This decision is at odds with commitments in the Environment Act to reverse species declines by 2030, and previous promises to tackle the biodiversity crisis.

As the UK moves to a post-EU pesticides approvals regime, we must be able to trust that scientific advice is going to be listened to.