We must ensure that our natural pollinators are protected.
I am aware that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) approved an emergency, temporary authorisation for the use of thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid pesticide, on one crop, sugar beet, for one year. This is due to the beet yellows virus, which poses a threat to sugar beets in England. I understand that emerging sugar beet seedlings are vulnerable to predation by aphids, which have the potential to spread the virus.
I would like to assure you that the temporary use of thiamethoxam is being tightly controlled. Conditions of the authorisation include a reduced application rate as well as a prohibition on any flowering crop being planted in the same field where the product has been used within 32 months of a treated sugar beet crop.
More broadly, I understand that British Sugar has a plan for the development of alternative, sustainable approaches to protect crops from yellows viruses, without the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments. This includes the development of resistant plant varieties, measures to improve seed germination and new practices for growers.
Finally, I would like to assure you that protecting bees and other pollinators is a priority for this Government. The National Pollinator Strategy Action Plan was published in May 2022 and sets out how Ministers will improve the status of pollinators in England. This includes restoring and creating habitat for wild and managed pollinators, including bumblebees.
I would like to assure you that the UK’s approach to the use of emergency authorisations has not changed as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU, and this approach is in line with the approach taken across Europe. In addition, 12 EU countries with significant sugar production, including France, Belgium, Denmark and Spain, have granted emergency authorisations in the last three years for neonicotinoid seed treatments following the EU-wide ban coming into force.