Pollinators and Pesticides - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


Insects are exposed to many environmental factors, but recent research suggests that one group of insecticides—neonicotinoids—is having an especially deleterious impact on insect pollinators. The body of peer-reviewed science on that point has developed appreciably in the course of our inquiry, but certainty is—as yet, if ever—unachievable. Our inquiry therefore focused on how Defra and the European Commission addressed monitoring, risk assessment, regulation, risk management, precaution and mitigation in response to the emerging science.

The system for approving pesticides is opaque. The Government should seek reforms whereby the European Food Safety Authority clearly identifies action points in its assessments that the European Commission must explicitly address before approving pesticides for use in the EU, and Member States should not undertake the initial assessment of products developed in their own countries in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

Defra should strategically support insect pollinators in the UK to preserve biodiversity, protect the environment and sustain a key ecosystem service. We were not encouraged by the Government's UK National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, which was a missed opportunity. The plan should be revised to make integrated pest management its clear central principle, with targets to reduce reliance on pesticides as far as possible. The promotion of integrated pest management is a key feature of the EU Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, and Member States are required to implement the provisions on integrated pest management by 1 January 2014.

Defra's application of the precautionary principle involves economic factors becoming entangled with environmental decision making, which not only contradicts Defra's stated commitment to the precautionary principle, but risks overlooking the significant economic value of insect pollinators to UK agriculture. Defra should prepare to introduce a moratorium in the UK on the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam by 1 January 2014, and support such a proposal in the EU.

In the main body of this report, conclusions are printed in bold and recommendations are printed in bold italics.

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Prepared 5 April 2013