[Valerie Vaz in the Chair] — Neonicotinoids on Crops

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:00 pm on 7th December 2015.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane 5:00 pm, 7th December 2015

They made a beeline for me, yes. It is telling that I have had more emails about this subject than about the Syria debate, and I had an awful lot of those.

I am also speaking up for the bees today, as I am sure we all are, because we owe them a great debt, as my hon. Friends have mentioned, and we must not underestimate their value. What they do for us worldwide is in the region of £360 billion-worth of services, pollinating 90% of our crops. They are unbelievable unpaid workers. As a former environmental and gardening broadcaster and journalist, this subject is close to my heart. My key message to the Minister is a call for balance and for scientific evidence. Neonicotinoids and their effect on bees must be taken seriously in light of the aforementioned need to produce food more sustainably. This is about not taking risks and weighing up the benefits of pesticides against their collateral damage. In 2013, the EU suspended the use of three types of neonics due to concern about the impact on bees. It was a political decision and politicians can only make decisions based on the science available at the time.

The UK went along with the suspension, but was sceptical about the evidence. The Minister may expand on this later, but I think it was more about concerns regarding the alternative pesticides that might be used—the old ones—were people not able to use neonics. The UK has since lifted the suspension of two of the offending pesticides on 5% of England’s oilseed rape crop, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bath referred. This December, however, the EU will be reviewing the neonic pesticide restrictions, which is what makes this debate so timely. Since 2013, much new evidence has come to light, which is why I am at pains to make it clear that the new evidence must be considered by the EU, the European Food Safety Authority and, in particular, by our Government.