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Bees (Pesticides)

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 29 October 2009

11. What recent representations he has received on the effect of pesticides on bees and other pollinators; and if he will make a statement. (296310)

My Department has received a number of representations from Members of Parliament and members of the public concerned about the effect of pesticides on bees and other pollinators.

An American scientific report on Syngenta’s neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamexotham, shows that it is deadly to honey bees. Does the Minister think that the Warwick university research into bee and pollinator morbidity, which is being funded by Syngenta, will have sufficiently wide terms of reference to assess any links that exist between neonicotinoids and the collapse of UK bee colonies?

The Government take the health of Britain’s bees very seriously and have pumped an extra £4.3 million into bee health. There is no evidence that authorised pesticides pose an unacceptable risk. However, I understand why my hon. Friend asks his question: where somebody is paying, one questions whether the research will be reflective of scientific rigour or not. We will, of course, consider all the research, including that commissioned by pesticide companies, into this important issue, but we will also ensure that the highest possible standards are maintained. I would also quickly say—

Order. I think that we have probably got the gist of the Minister’s answer, for which we are grateful. May I gently say to him that he must address the House and try to look in the direction of the Chair?

Given the international aspects and origin of some of the diseases that affect our bees, how much contact has the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the National Bee Unit had with our counterparts abroad?

We are in constant liaison and discussions with a whole range of people on the serious issue of bee health. It appears that there is no one cause, so we are looking very carefully at all the possible explanations, which obviously means that we need clear communications with a range of people here and abroad.