Join the fight for the bees, David Cameron

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Join the fight for the bees, David Cameron

by Sandra Bell


It will help us if we look after the bees (Pinti 1, under a CC License)

The British media is excited about the news of the ban of three neonicotinoid insecticides on many crops across Europe.

Scientists have linked the use of these insecticides to the disappearance of bees. We, at Friends of the Earth, were one of the groups fighting for this, because of scientific evidence and logic. We need bees and other pollinating insects and we need other areas of nature too. There’s a lot of evidence that says that neonicotinoids have bad effects on bees. It seems that the only good solution is to stop people using them.

Insects pollinate three quarters of the crops of the world and most wild flowering plants. This work is worth over $200 billion each year. In Britain, it would cost farmers $2.8 billion a year to do the work that our bees do for free. Even so, the British government voted against the ban at the European Union on 29 April. But the bees are lucky - Britain could not stop the new law on restrictions.

The European governments now need to use the two years of the ban to change the way we do farming. We need to increase the development of alternative technologies and ways to control pests. We need to protect crops but not harm the bees that pollinate them.

The pesticides industry has said that this ban will make farmers use old chemicals or old farming practices again. It should not be an excuse to grow more genetically modified (GM) crops as a solution. Instead, we need to look at the development of useful technologies, eg. better prediction of pest problems and using pesticides only in small areas where absolutely necessary. We can use some more traditional ideas, like growing different crops in rotation and encouraging other natural things to eat the pests. So this is a good opportunity to find solutions that are good for farming and nature. The very toxic chemicals, neonicotinoids, used on seeds so that farmers do not even have a choice to use them or not, should never be used again.

The number of bees is going down all over the world. So if we learn about how to keep bees by not using pesticides, this will help other countries too. And we need to learn quickly how best to help bees and other pollinators. In Britain, we are lucky to have over 250 species of bees. But we’ve lost several species already and many more have almost disappeared. The numbers of bees that live alone (“solitary bees”) have decreased in half the areas studied, and there are very few in some areas. Losing individual species – in any country – is a problem. Different bees do different jobs, so we need to maintain diversity. Around the world, wild bees do more to protect our food than honey bees –it will help us if we look after them.

But we already know that bees need more just a few years without pesticides. They also need more food and protection; we need to get a lot more wild flowers back to our farmland and to our towns and cities, and we need places for bees to nest. The way we farm and the way we plan new development needs to change. There are many reasons for the disappearance of bees so we need many different solutions.

That’s why Friends of the Earth is asking for a Bee Action Plan This will help farmers and gardeners cut the chemicals that are bad for bees, protect all British bee species and make sure that there are enough flowers for bees to feed on and nest in. Over 175 MPs, from all parties, as well as Waitrose, the Co-operative, the Women’s Institute and thousands of individual people, have already supported this.

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