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Jane Kennedy: DEFRA has consulted on a bee health strategy which is intended to develop beekeepers skills in maintaining honey bee colonies through increased awareness of disease problems and improved application of husbandry techniques.
The strategy recognises the importance of sharing responsibility between beekeepers and bee inspectors in monitoring bees for diseases and taking early action to tackle problems. Subject to completion of the National Audit Offices study into the Animal Health programme, the bee health strategy will be published early in 2009.
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations his Department has received on the sustainability of the bee population; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: Defra has received numerous parliamentary questions, letters from MPs, their constituents, beekeepers and their organisations, as well as a petition from the British Beekeepers Association. I and the Secretary of State and Defra Ministers have recently met representatives of beekeeping organisations. To help beekeepers maintain a sustainable population of honeybees, in consultation with their representatives Defra has developed a strategy for bee health, which addresses the development of beekeeping skills and allocates responsibilities for action. The strategy should be published early in 2009.
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding has been provided by his Department for research into the impact of genetically-modified crops on bee colonies in each region in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
The only research that Defra has funded in relation to genetically modified (GM) crops and bees was as part of the Farm Scale Evaluation
(FSE) trials of GM herbicide-tolerant crops that took place between 1999 and 2003. These assessed the indirect effect on farmland wildlife of the novel herbicide use associated with cultivation of the GM crops, relative to their conventional counterparts, including the impact on bee abundance. A full explanation of this research and its findings is available on the Defra website. It is not possible to isolate specific expenditure figures for the bee monitoring work under the FSE programme.
A number of research studies have been done on the potential direct impact on bees of GM insect-resistant crops. As these crops are designed to be toxic to certain insect pests, there has been a specific reason to consider whether they might also have an effect on other, non-target insect species. However, the research has not identified any cause for concern. These studies were not funded by Defra.
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to support the sustainability of bee colonies in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: The National Bee Unit (NBU), delivers the bee health programme in England on behalf of DEFRA. The aim of the programme is to control the spread of endemic notifiable diseases of honey bees and to identify and manage the risk associated with new exotic pests and diseases that may be introduced.
The NBU operates a statutory inspection programme for notifiable diseases and pests, and provides a comprehensive training and education programme for beekeepers to enable them to become more self-reliant in combating disease problems through improved bee husbandry.
|Number of inspections||Number of training events|
|(1) Includes Wales|
DEFRA recognises the contribution that honey bees make to sustainable agriculture via their role in pollination and take seriously any threat to the sustainability of the beekeeping sector. The development of the Governments bee health strategy confirms our ongoing commitment to protecting and improving the health of honey bees and to sustaining and supporting beekeeping now and for future generations.
Jane Kennedy: The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) permits the importation of authorised medicinal products from other member states and is seeking information from them about the products they have authorised for the control of varroosis. The VMD has identified two such products in other member states that are eligible for mutual recognition and has asked the marketing authorisation holders of these products to apply for mutual recognition. If these applications are successful it will mean that these products can be marketed directly in the UK.
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps have been taken to find alternative treatments for (a) pyrethroid resistance, (b) colony collapse disorder and (c) varroa in bees in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: When inspectors find pyrethroid resistance in samples of varroa, they advise beekeepers on alternative methods of control, including alternative chemical treatments and husbandry techniques. Information is also provided in published literature available to beekeepers and on the National Bee Unit's website, Beebase. Although the cause of colony collapse disorder in the USA is unknown, we do not have evidence to suggest that the losses experienced in the UK have a similar cause.
Varroa is almost ubiquitous. Inspectors provide advice during visits, through training courses and through published literature on alternatives to chemical controls for varroa. DEFRA has funded research into a possible biocontrol for varroa; discussions are now taking place on how to take this work forward.
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding his Department has provided for research into (a) pyrethroid resistance, (b) colony collapse disorder and (c) varroa in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: DEFRA has provided funding for research into pyrethroid resistance as part of projects assessing the impact of varroa and also under the bee health programme. It is not possible to separate out this funding from the overall total. The causes of the syndrome dubbed colony collapse disorder in the USA are currently unclear and we have no current evidence to suggest that it is occurring in the UK. DEFRA provided an additional £27,000 to the National Bee Unit for work related to abnormal colony losses in 2007-08 and with the Welsh Assembly Government provided £120,000 in the current year to continue this work. With respect to research into varroa, DEFRA and its predecessor have provided a total of £1,388,597 since 1997.
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of levels of (a) pyrethroid resistance, (b) colony collapse disorder and (c) varroa in bees in each region in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
In the absence of a clear cause for the syndrome dubbed colony collapse disorder in the USA and the lack of trade links between the USA and the UK DEFRA does not believe that a similar syndrome occurs in the UK. However, the level of colony loss, especially over-winter, is a concern.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice he has received on the risk of an individual animal being diagnosed with blue-tongue during the period of high midge activity. 
Jane Kennedy: The UK remains at risk from Bluetongue, whether from re-emergence of domestic disease, from windborne spread from the continent, or through animal imports. This risk is likely to remain for some time, depending in large part on the success of control measures in other countries. Vaccination is the only effective tool to protect susceptible animals from Bluetongue, and in line with other affected member states, we will shortly publish our plans for vaccination against BTV8 ahead of the 2009 vector season.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what obligations are placed on farmers who import stock from the blue-tongue protection zone in northern Europe. 
Jane Kennedy: As of 3 November 2008, all of Great Britain became a single confluent Protection Zone for Bluetongue serotype 8 (BTV-8). Animals can be moved freely within this Protection Zone, and to and from other BTV-8 Protection Zones in Europe provided that they meet the generic import/export requirements and are accompanied by an Export Health Certificate which has been signed by an official veterinarian.
DEFRA also conducts post-import tests on all susceptible animals imported from continental Europe, for all Bluetongue serotypes, and urges industry to consider the risks and check the health and vaccination status of animals when sourcing any animals, from within the UK or abroad. It is also the obligation of individual farmers to be vigilant and report any suspected Bluetongue cases to their local Animal Health Office.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what provision he has made for members of the blue-tongue stakeholder group to have direct access to scientists at the Institute of Animal Health. 
Jane Kennedy: DEFRA consults with experts at the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) at Pirbright on a regular basis. DEFRAs core group of industry stakeholders has the opportunity to regularly put questions to the experts, both at IAH Pirbright, and other experts (eg vets, epidemiologists), directly, or through questions considered by expert groups. The questions asked and advice sought from experts at DEFRAs request are closely informed by discussions with the core group of stakeholders.
Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what quantities of vaccines for the (a) BTV1 and (b) BTV6 strains of bluetongue disease are (i) available and (ii) on order. 
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take following the judgment in the case of Partridge Farms Ltd v. the Secretary of State; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: The judgment in the High Court in Partridge Farms Ltd v. Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has been appealed to the Court of Appeal, which will hear the appeal in March 2009. Until the case is concluded, I do not propose to make a statement.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how much his Department spent on visits by its staff to Brussels in 2007-08; and how many such visits were made by (a) air and (b) rail; 
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