The Scottish Wildlife Trust and Buglife Scotland are leading a campaign calling for a permanent ban on three neonicotinoid insecticides in Scotland because of the detrimental effects on bees and other wild pollinators.
As part of the campaign, a roundtable discussion will be held at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 1 March, sponsored by Graeme Dey MSP, where speakers will discuss the evidence regarding the harmful effect certain neonicotinoids can have on bees and other wildlife.
The event is intended to inform MSPs of the issues surrounding neonicotinoids, including how farmers and other commercial growers could cut down on all pesticide use by moving towards systems that benefit wildlife, improve long-term farm health and safeguard food production.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Buglife Scotland and other leading conservation charities in Scotland have written to the Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead MSP calling for the temporary EU ban to be made permanent for all crops in Scotland.
A two-year EU moratorium banning three of these neonicotinoid pesticides is currently being reviewed in light of new research. The Scottish Government, in its response to the campaign, says that it supports the EU precautionary approach, but states that it does not yet have enough scientific evidence at the right scale to know if there is a strong enough effect on the health of honeybee colonies, the abundance and viability of wild pollinator populations or the pollination services they provide.
Dr Maggie Keegan, Head of Policy at the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “There is a huge body of evidence, which cannot be ignored, showing that certain neonicotinoids are harmful to bees and other wild pollinators. Pollinators are invaluable to Scotland’s ecosystems and must be protected. The Trust believes the most harmful groups of neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – should be permanently banned for use on all crops.
“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.
Keegan from the Scottish Wildlife Trust continues: “We’re looking forward to the roundtable discussion at the Scottish Parliament and getting this discussion out there. This damage doesn’t stop at bees. Neonicotinoids persist in agricultural landscapes, contaminating soils, potentially impacting upon soil invertebrates, infecting wildflowers, leaching into the aquatic environment and may lead to a decline in insectivorous birds and butterflies in farmed systems.
“The Scottish Wildlife Trust recognises that with a permanent ban in place, farmers will need advice regarding safe alternatives. This is why the discussion will also explore whether enough is being done 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.”
Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive, of Buglife said: “Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are in trouble and need all the help that we can give them. The evidence is conclusive – neonicotinoids are a confirmed risk to wild pollinators, they travel through the soil into wildflowers and streams causing damage to wildlife in each habitat they pollute. A complete ban is overdue.”
Graeme Dey, MSP, said: “I am sympathetic to what the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Buglife Scotland are seeking. My constituency is at the heart of Scotland's soft fruit production and I am only too well aware of the consequences for that sector of the mortality issue within bee populations. However, we also need to consider how the wider agricultural sector might be able to access safer alternatives if these neonicitinoids were to be banned.
“I am looking forward to hosting a roundtable discussion which will hear the full range of views on this hugely important issue.”
Evidence has shown that this neonicotinoid exposure can harm bees in a number of ways: damaging bee brains, reducing bumblebee queen production, reducing wild bee density, decreasing solitary bee nesting and bumblebee colony growth and reproduction. Neonicotinoids may also negatively affect wild bees even more than honeybees because honeybees are better at detoxifying after neonicotinoid exposure and have a greater buffering capacity because of the colony size compared to bumblebees.
In addition to calling for a permanent ban, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Buglife Scotland want the Government to recommend safe alternatives, both chemical and non-chemical, and to support research into integrated pest management (IPM) systems that work for Scottish farmers.
“Moving Beyond Neonicotinoids” will be held at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 1 March in the Members’ Room between 6-8pm. Speakers include: Dr Penelope Whitehorn, Stirling University; Matt Shardlow, CEO Buglife; Dr Nick Birch, James Hutton Institute; and Andrew Bauer, National Farmers Union Scotland. This will be followed by a chaired panel discussion.
For more information on the campaign and to read the Scottish Government's response, click here.