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The Scottish Wildlife Trust is urging the Scottish Government to reconsider its decision not to support a ban on the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) due to their harmful effects on bees and other wild pollinators.
While UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced last Thursday he supports further restrictions on the use of these pesticides, Holyrood’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, has called for further evidence before any decision is made.
Jonny Hughes, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said Mr Ewing’s statement, in response to Mr Gove’s ‘welcome announcement’, was ‘disappointing given the overwhelming and increasing amount of evidence showing the harm this class of pesticides cause to pollinators.
‘This evidence includes a comprehensive study of neonics, carried out by the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which looked at 1,121 studies which concluded that there are significant unintended negative ecological consequences of large-scale use of insecticides.
‘The Scottish Government has been sitting on the fence on this issue for too many years. Scotland now needs to get off the fence and show some leadership to protect our pollinators.
‘Equally, while we welcome Michael Gove’s announcement that the UK will back further restrictions on the use of these damaging chemicals within the European Union, it’s important to realise this would stop short of the outright ban that the Scottish Wildlife Trust is calling for.
‘The harm caused to insects by neonicotinoids is not just a problem for our wildlife. Crop pollination is a service that has an estimated value of £43 million per year to Scotland’s economy. In addition to banning the most harmful insecticides, we need to see more support for an integrated approach to pest management, where the use of pesticides is minimised while allowing farmers to grow healthy crops.’
The trust has been calling for an outright ban on pesticides containing the neonicotinoid chemicals clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam since 2012. Over this time, it said, many scientific studies have shown the negative effects on these chemicals on both honeybees and wild pollinators such as bumblebees, butterflies and solitary bees.
It cited a worldwide assessment conducted by the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides in 2015, which concluded that ‘large-scale use of systemic insecticides is having significant unintended negative ecological consequences’.
Andrew Bauer, NFU Scotland deputy director of policy, said: ‘We have noted Mr Gove’s comments on what is now the latest chapter in a long debate on neonicotinoids and will look for further information from DEFRA in the coming days.
‘What is key for the farming community now is that we have clarity for the future and that no matter the outcome or decision that our members have access to safe and effective plant protective products which are vital to the industry.’