As we reported here and here, the Government approved the use of the banned pesticide thiamethoxam for sugar beet in England in 2022. The same approval was given last year, but due to a cold snap in winter, the aphid and disease threshold was not met, and so the bees got a reprieve.

Unfortunately, the same is not true this year. The mild winter means that the threshold set by the derogation approval has been met, and so thiamethoxam will be used across almost 100,000 hectares of sugar beet fields in England. Professor Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex has previously said that just one single teaspoon of neonicotinoids is enough to kill 1.25 billion honeybees. And we know that the effects are long lasting. Just one exposure of a neonicotinoid insecticide significantly impacts bees’ ability to produce offspring in future years.

In early February, Luke Pollard MP convened a Westminster Hall debate on the neonicotinoid approval and he, and many other impassioned MPs, pointed out to minister Prentis from Defra how the Government had gone against scientific advice with this decision.

We fully agree with his closing statement in which he said:

“I do not think [the minister] adequately explained why she chose to override scientific advice with this decision. I also note that she did not concentrate on the 2023 date after which neonicotinoids will not be used again. I anticipate that this will be the last debate we need to have on the use of neonicotinoids…If bee-killing pesticides are still to be used, we are in danger of not meeting our obligations under the 25-year environment plan, the Environment Act or the declaration of a climate and nature emergency that Parliament passed in 2019…I hope that the cross-party strength of feeling makes it clear to the Minister and the Secretary of State that bee-killing pesticides should never be used again.”

We simply cannot be in the same position this time next year. Farmers, including sugar beet farmers, need proper support and advice to help them move away from harmful pesticides, and towards a more nature-friendly approach to pest and disease control. Our pollinators, and therefore ourselves, depend on it.