Owen Paterson defends use of bees-link pesticide

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today defended the Government’s stance on pesticides which have been blamed for a dramatic fall in bee populations across Europe.

Owen Paterson

The European Commission is going ahead with a two-year ban on the chemicals, called neonicotinoids, after 15 of the 27 EU states gave their support yesterday. A ban is fiercely opposed by the British government. Mr Paterson spoke out after the vote in Brussels.

He claimed the evidence showed the controversial pesticides actually helped bee populations. The North Shropshire MP said: “We voted against the ban because, backed my chief scientists and the Government’s scientific adviser, we all believe there has not been scientific evidence justifying the ban.

“All the prior experiments have been conducted in labs, and we call member states and the commission to see the results of our field trials, which dealt with real bees in real fields and showed that in areas where these pesticides were used, bees increased and the queens increased.

“More Europe-wide field trials are needed. This ban has been blundered on without being qualified. We have support from significant countries such as Italy and Hungary.

“We do not want to push on with a ban on one specific product when there is not a replacement plan ready.

“We don’t want to fall back on older technology from the 50s and 60s which may be licensed but is still not good for the environment and may also not work, as the pests may be immune to them. This ban will significantly reduce food production.”

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations.

Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban – not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission now has the option to impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids – and the UK cannot opt out.

EU Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg said work would start within weeks on putting in place a two-year ban on neonicotinoids used on crops such as oil seed rape, which are attractive to bees.

The Commission says it wants the ban to begin no later than December 1.

Mr Borg said: “Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks.”

Greenpeace chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “By not supporting the ban, Owen Paterson has exposed the UK Government as being in the pocket of big chemical companies and the industrial farming lobby.

“Government policy should be evidence-based and the evidence in this case is clear – these pesticides are badly affecting bees.

“That Mr Paterson chose to ignore it does not bode well.” Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies insisted there was sufficient evidence of a threat to bees to justify a ban.

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Comments for: "Owen Paterson defends use of bees-link pesticide"

Port Hill Boy

Mr Paterson is in a corner but wn't admit defeat gracefully.

Killing bees, killing badgers...what's next on his agenda?

elizabeth howerd

Very, very good question Port Hill Boy.

This excuse for a man should not be allowed to run roughshod over science, and the opinions of the people of this country!


This man is an absolute disgrace, the sooner the good people in North Shropshire wake up to this self serving big business sycophant, the better.

steve yandall

The facts are somewhat different to Mr Paterson's commentary.The referred to field trials were concluded as encouraging but "inconclusive" and involved only 20 Bumble Bee colonies on 3 sites which contained oil seed rape but had good mixed foraging.The oil seed rape represented 37"-39% of the bees intake thus the neonicotinoid intake was diluted by alternative food sources.

The field trials failed to represent areas of low alternative foraging and a high % of neonicotinoid crops whilst the bees were from 'farmed' sources within which Queens had not been exposed to neonicotinoids in the year of birth.

I would suggest that the report be read on the DEFRA website as the deduction that I made was that the report was clear evidence of the need to adopt the precautionary principle as Mr Paterson's dept had made such a small commitment to a field study that it was statistically insignificant.Much could have been proven so just why was a trial entered into knowing that it was of no statistical value?

Mr Paterson's stance is that he is willing to risk bee welfare whilst investigating the chemical impacts--investigations that should have been undertaken within the approval structures before release!

An interesting source of information is Purdue University in the USA(the leading independent bee research unit).

It is my understanding that European Law prescribes for the protection of bees and that KNOWINGLY using harmful chemicals is legislated against thus the DEFRA spokesperson that said that a moratorium would result in the use of harmful chemicals was suggesting that the UK actively contravenes the law.

I would conclude that the reference by the DEFRA spokesperson to using more harmful chemicals,the proposal that we continue neonic use whilst testing for that which we already should know and the level of field trial investment points toward bees being seen as disposable and a partiality to commerce that is unseemly in a minister charged with representing not only humanity but our voiceless fellow travellers.

Our fellow travellers ARE sending us a message.Their exponential decline is the result of a failure to adopt the precautionary principle throughout the UK's existence as noted by the European Environment Agency that condemned European governments for the abandonment of that principle!


"We have support from significant countries such as Italy and Hungary."

That says it all about Paterson's isolation and arrogance.


How killing society? Oh, I forgot, there is no such thing is there?!

elizabeth howerd

Why is Mr.Paterson not listening to 70% of the public that is against the use of these pesticides? Does he not work for the people? Why is he totally ignoring the general consensus?


The minister for the destruction of the environment is at it again. Where does he get these "scientific facts" from that always manage to fly in the face of 90 % of all other research? Does anyone believe that nerve destroying poisons are

good for anything? Its hard enough to do the right thing, but when the environment is left in the hands of underhanded profit-hungry bullies who are simply paving the way for corporate fascism, the whole business of protecting our natural resources becomes a battle ground.


Sorry I thought Italy voted for the ban??? Did that change??

Martin Tudor

Bees are essential for our existence we should tread very carefully - literally and metaphorically.

More Tory bowing to business pressure.


This policy of ignoring experts and public opinion seems to be a recurrent trait of this government. The case of the Bees and pesticides is another case, along with Childcare, Health, Policing, Press Freedom, Social reform, Immigration etc etc ............ How arrogant can they get in their 'We know better than you' mantra.