If farmers had to pollinate fruit and vegetables without the help of insects it would cost hundreds of millions of pounds and we would all be stung by rising food prices. Defra Ministers, however, have refused to back EU efforts to protect pollinators. Disease, habitat loss and climate change can all affect insect populations, but a growing body of research suggests that neonicotinoids are having an especially damaging impact on pollinators. The weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action, so the Committee is calling for a moratorium on pesticides linked to bee decline to be introduced by 1 January next year.
An EU-wide moratorium on the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX on crops attractive to bees, following a recent risk warning from the European Food Safety Authority, has also been proposed. Many of the UK's largest garden retailers have voluntarily withdrawn non-professional plant protection products that contain neonicotinoids. A full ban on the sale of neonicotinoids for public domestic use, which could create an urban safe haven for pollinators is recommended. The pesticide industry must open itself to greater academic scrutiny if it wants to justify its continued opposition to the precautionary protection of pollinators. The Government's National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides published earlier this year was a missed opportunity, according to the Committee. Clearer targets are needed to reduce reliance on pesticides as far as possible. And Integrated Pest Management – which emphasises alternatives to pesticides, but does not preclude their use – should be made the central principle of the plan. Pollinators and Pesticides covers these ideas.