Call to ban pesticide linked to bee deaths

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WILDLIFE campaigners are urging Scottish ministers to back a proposed EU ban on a pesticide blamed for killing bees.

A five-strong group of leading environmental bodies have joined forces to press environment minister Richard Lochhead to support the ban in advance of crucial discussions in Europe later this month.

Pesticides containing a substance called neonicotinoids, which is commonly used on oilseed rape and other crops, have been at the centre of investigations into a dramatic decrease in honey bee numbers in Scotland and other parts of Europe.

According to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, neonicotinoids have been linked to a 10 to 15 per cent decline in bee numbers.

Lochhead is now being asked by Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Buglife and Butterfly Conservation Scotland to lobby his coalition government counterpart Owen Paterson to back the implementation of the ban on 15 March.

The move follows the publication of a scientific review from the European Food Safety Authority which identified a “high, acute risk to honey bees” from three varieties of neonicotinoids.

They are believed to interfere with nerve impulse transmission in insects, leading to strong muscle contractions and death.

In a letter to Lochhead, the groups say: “Evidence continues to grow that neonicotinoid use poses a significant risk to pollinating insects.

“Bees and other pollinating insects play a vital role in food production, worth approximately £43 million a year to our economy, as well as being an integral part of natural ecosystems.”

France, the Netherlands, and Poland support a ban but several other member states – including the UK, Spain and Germany – are believed to be against it at present.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have asked the Advisory Committee on Pesticides for further urgent advice taking account of further research.

“This will then help to inform the Scottish Government’s view on next steps.”