Bee Cause: Kerry creates buzz about bee decline

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18 January 2013
'We must act now to save Britain's declining bee population' that was the message from Bristol East MP, Kerry McCarthy, who met campaigners from Friends of the Earth this week in Parliament.  Joined by a giant bumble bee, Kerry vowed to continue her work to help raise awareness of declining bee numbers and put pressure on Government Ministers to do more to solve the problem, before it is too late. A study last year found that if bees disappeared it would cost British farmers at least £1.8 billion a year to pollinate their crops by hand - which would cause food prices, such as fresh fruit and veg, to rocket.

  

Many factors are thought to be contributing to decline in bee numbers, including habitat loss, disease, climate change and emerging evidence that some types of pesticide are likely to be responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

The decline in bee population is a real risk to the following three areas:

·         Food supply - 20% of the UK cropped area is made up of pollinator dependent crops (including most fruit and vegetables) and a high portion of wild flowering plants depend on insect pollination for reproduction. Bees are thought to be responsible for the pollination of around a third of the food eaten by the world’s population.

·         Economy - the value of pollinators to the UK Government is conservatively estimated to be £430m per annum. Unless we halt the decline in British bees, our farmers will have to rely on hand pollination, which could cost farmers £1.8billion a year in labour and pollen alone, something which is increasingly happening in China, causing food prices to rise.

·         Environment – they are important for the quality of our gardens, parks and countryside. And their decline gives us a worrying early-warning indication about the health of our environment.

To help stop the decline and to encourage the Government to act the problem more seriously, Friends of the Earth launched the Bee Cause campaign, which has been backed by more than 80,000 people and calls for the Government to urgently to introduce a National Bee Action Plan aimed at saving our bees.
 
Quick to take action, Kerry McCarthy said: " A sharp fall in bee numbers in recent years has led to growing concerns about the impact this may have on our local environment, farmers and the economy. It’s vital that the way we plan our towns and cities and farm our food takes account of how it may impact on our bees. I have written to Cllr Gus Hoyt to ask him to consider a Pollinator Action Plan for Bristol along the lines of that announced by the Welsh Assembly for Wales, given the importance of bee pollination to the food system for Bristol. A range of decisions taken by the mayoral cabinet, from planning to management of public spaces, has an impact on bee numbers. Bristol is the ideal city to lead the way in action to halt the decline in bee populations; with organisations such as the Soil Association based in the city, and our Green Capital bid."

Other Action Kerry has taken to stop declining Been numbers:

·         Kerry wrote to the Minister for Agriculture & Food in May last year to ask him to suspend all existing approvals for neonicotinoid pesticides as a precautionary principle pending more exhaustive research, in light of research which suggests their use could be contributing to the alarming decline in bee numbers. This issue was raised with Kerry by a constituent, who is planting a wild meadow at the school where she teaches.

·         In the response Kerry received from Richard Benyon, the government continues to dismiss any link between the use of these pesticides and decline in bees - further to research undertaken by Chief Government scientist at DEFRA - a position it shares with the NFU. Defra announced that they are conducting one more study into the impacts of neonicotinoids, with the report due in spring 2013.  If they are undertaking yet another study, alongside the study currently underway by the Environmental Audit Committee, it seems to suggest they are looking for any evidence that will back up their claims of safety. In addition, Richard Benyon gave the impression that the EU was responsible for deciding matters relating to the ban and control of pesticides, saying “the rules for pesticides controls apply across the EU”. But since then both France and Italy have both suspended their use. Defra are making a habit of erroneously citing the EU or the European Convention on Human Rights as a reason for being unable to take forward particular policies; they initially gave it as their reason for not introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses.


Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “I’m delighted Kerry McCarthy MP is showing support for Britain’s threatened bees – they are under severe threat and need all the support they can get. People up and down the country can help by creating bee-friendly gardens and habitats to enable bees to thrive, but it is vital that the Government does its bit too by introducing a National Bee Action Plan.”


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