As Brexit talks got underway this week, the Green Party has warned that the UK's exit from the EU could be a threat to pollinating species like bees.
Green MEP Molly Scott Cato yesterday warned that, while the EU Commission is poised to extend a ban on controversial neonicotinoid pesticides, Tory MEPs are seeking to block such a ban. Ahead of the EU Commission's restriction of three neonics in 2013, the UK government publicly disavowed scientific evidence of harm to bees, and attempted to present a study conducted by UK research agency FERA, which wasn't peer reviewed and was panned by EU watchdog EFSA, as evidence to influence other EU member states to reject the Commission's 'partial ban'.
The NFU has consistently lobbied for the retention of chemicals which have become controversial due to growing evidence of their effects on environmental or public health. The union is encouraging the UK government to abandon the EU's approach to regulation (based on the precautionary principle, which puts the burden of proof on companies to demonstrate that controversial products are safe, rather than on civil society groups or academics to provide that there is evidence of harm while a potentially damaging product is still in use) and has asked farmers to make the case for the chemistry they use on social media and to their local MP.
Commenting on the situation on Monday, Molly Scott Cato said, "The EU is presenting us with a great opportunity to rid Europe of these hugely harmful and totally unnecessary pesticides that have had such a devastating effect on bee populations. Consumer pressure and undeniable scientific evidence has brought us to this point.
"But it will come as no surprise to anyone that the powerful agri-chemical corporate lobby and NFU have the ear of Conservative ministers and MEPs. Also, the hard Brexit, anti-red-tape brigade inside the Tory Party cannot wait to sweep away what they see as interfering rules; regulations that actually protect our wildlife, including essential pollinators like bees.
"With Brexit negotiations starting… I will continue to do all I can to defend crucial environmental regulations from attack by corporate giants and complicit politicians."