Greta Thunberg criticises government over decision to green-light bee-killing pesticide banned by EU

Swedish environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Swedish environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

Greta Thunberg has criticised the government for allowing UK farmers permission to use a bee-killing pesticide so poisonous that is banned by the EU.

English farmers will soon be able to use neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on sugar beet crops, prompting outcries by environmentalists that ministers have bowed to pressure from farmers.

Environment secretary George Eustice has given farmers permission to use the insecticide after a virus last year significantly reduced sugar beat yields and gave them a 120-day window to administer it.

But the Wildlife Trusts said neonicotinoids pose a significant environmental risk, particularly to bees and other pollinators.

Taking to Twitter, they said: "Bad news for bees: The government has bowed to pressure from the National Farmers Union to agree the use of a highly damaging pesticide.

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"The government know the clear harm that neonicotinoid pesticides cause to bees and other pollinators and just three years ago supported restrictions on them across the European Union.

"Insects perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, and nutrient recycling, but so many have suffered drastic declines."

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The EU banned all outdoor uses of three neonicotinoid insecticides after numerous studies showed bee populations were being heavily affected by their use.

A 2017 study of 33 oilseed rape sites in the UK, Germany and Hungary found a link between higher levels of neonicotinoid residues and lower bee reproduction.

Evidence also suggested the pesticides harm bee brain development, tweaking immune systems and can leave bees unable to fly.

A third of UK bee population is thought to have vanished in a decade, yet up to three-quarters of crop species are pollinated by bees.

Environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg said the move threw the government's "green industrial revolution" into doubt.

The 18-year-old Swede tweeted: "UK government has announced 'a bee-killing pesticide so poisonous that it is banned by the EU' may be used in England. New coal mines and pesticides... the UK's so-called 'green industrial revolution' is off to a great start. Very credible indeed."

A petition calling for the UK government from using the pesticide has already gathered more than 75,000 signatures.

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