The Government must act on the rising use of pesticides and their impact on bees and other pollinators, Friends of the Earth have warned, in the week marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's ground-breaking book on pesticides, Silent Spring.
Since Silent Spring, widely credited as instrumental in the US ban of the pesticide DDT, there has been no fundamental shift from the reliance on chemicals in farming. And a new generation of neonicotinoid insecticides - which are toxic to bees - are being used in increasing quantities in the UK countryside. Modern weed killers have also created problems wiping out important sources of food for bees.
Despite mounting evidence of the harm that pesticides can cause to pollinators, the Government's draft Pesticide Action Plan issued in July this year failed to set out new measures to reduce chemical use on the crops visited by bees and other pollinating insects.
• Research earlier this year showed an increase in deaths of Queen Bumblebees when exposed to the neonicotinoid imadicloprid
• Italy has suspended use of neonicotinoids since 2008, whilst France has banned the use of the neonicotinoid Thiamathoxam
• In the UK, use of insecticides on the percentage of crop areas treated rose by 86 per cent on strawberries, and 74 per centon oilseed rape between 2005 and 2010, according to data from the Food and Environment Research Agency.
• Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway, have had pesticide-use reduction plans in place for over a decade. France's agriculture department says the country can reduce pesticides use by 30 per cent on arable crops without impacting on crop yields or farm income.
Friends of the Earth's Nature Campaigner Sandra Bell said: "Fifty years on from Silent Spring we still have a Government that is failing to act to stop the harmful impacts of pesticides on our natural world.
"The UK dragged its feet over banning the highly toxic pesticide DDT, despite strong evidence it was killing birds and now we're way behind other countries in taking action to protect bees.
"The Government must stop prolonging this issue and suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and set out a clear strategy to help farmers cut their dependence on chemicals."