Leading environmental charities, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Buglife, have joined forces to call for a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which harm bees and wild pollinators, to be banned in Scotland permanently.
In December 2013, the EU introduced a ban – to be reviewed after two years – restricting the use of three types of neonicotinoid insecticides due to the “high acute risks” to bees. Since then, there has been considerable research activity which has backed up the decision to ban these chemicals.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust and Buglife have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Richard Lochhead, calling on the Scottish Government to permanently ban the use of these three neonicotinoids on outdoor crops. The RSPB Scotland and Butterfly Conservation Scotland have also signed the letter calling for a ban.
Pollinators provide an essential ecosystem service to farmers and fruit growers worth at least £43 million per year to Scotland’s economy. However, a growing body of evidence shows that neonicotinoids damage bee brains, reduce bumblebee queen production, reduce wild bee density and have many other harmful effects that could result in substantial and unknown costs in the future.
Head of Policy for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Dr Maggie Keegan, said: “Since the EU ban came into force, restricting the use of certain neonicotinoids because of the high risk to bees, a huge amount of evidence has emerged which shows this was the right decision. This is why the Scottish Wildlife Trust is now asking the Scottish Government to show leadership and protect Scotland’s bees and other wildlife by permanently banning those neonicotinoids that do the most harm.
“These toxic chemicals not only harm bees, they also persist in the agricultural landscape and contaminate soils, potentially harming invertebrates such as earthworms. They are picked up by wildflowers, get into the watercourse and are linked to a decline in birds and butterflies in farmed systems.
“We now know that bumblebees can’t pollinate crops effectively when exposed to these pesticides, so it makes moral, ecological and economic sense to ban them.
“The Scottish Wildlife Trust recognises that with a permanent ban in place, farmers will need advice regarding safe alternatives. This is why we are also calling on the Scottish Government to support research that will help Scotland’s farmers cut down on all pesticide use – which is ultimately the best option for Scotland’s wildlife and agricultural ecosystems.”
Scotland Director for Buglife, Craig MacAdam, said: “Buglife led a strong campaign that culminated in the EU suspension, an action we know the UK Government is opposed to. It is, therefore, essential that Scotland takes a lead in protecting the future of our pollinators and sets an example to Westminster – these bugs are our friends and without them agriculture as we know it would end.”