Letter to Editor: Bad news for Harlow’s Bees

Politics / Fri 15th Jan 2021 at 09:52am

Dear Sir,

I READ with alarm that the government has backtracked on its pledge to ban an insecticide by allowing its use this year on sugar beet seeds. This insecticide, a neonicotinoid, is known to kill bees and was banned throughout the EU, with full UK support as recently as 2018.

Bees matter, not just the bees they make honey, but all the different species of bees play a vital role in pollinating crops and wild flowers. In fact, they are so important that leading Conservative politician Michael Gove said, “the weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood. We cannot put our pollinator populations at risk.”

The government is saying that this U-turn, which represents a huge backward step in environmental safeguards, is necessary as an emergency measure. Yet in 2018 a similar application for the use of this pesticide in England was refused after government advisers said it would “cause unacceptable effects to bees in flowering crops and flowering plants in field margins”.

To make matters worse, according to highly regarded conservationists, no measures have yet been put in place to prevent the pollution of our rivers with rainwater containing the chemical at a time when British aquatic insects are also in serious decline. 

Do insects matter? Well, of course they do, their role in pollinating our food plants is vital and they also provide a vital link in food chains that support our populations of wild birds and mammals. Conservationist have noted that these too will be adversely affected by the use of this pesticide.

The government has broken two promises in taking this regressive step. To build back better after the Covid pandemic and to maintain or improve environmental protections after Brexit. They should honour these promises.

I have signed a petition today calling on the government to rethink its U-turn and protect our environment, and I would invite Harlow residents, who think environmental protections matter, to do the same.


Mark Ingall

Leader of Harlow Council

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