“Protecting pollinators is a priority for this government.”

DEFRA spokesperson

January 9, 2021

Facts

Just a week after the government announced that it would be lifting a ban on neonicotinoids, a pesticide believed to kill bees, a spokesperson from DEFRA said: “Protecting pollinators is a priority for this government”. A product containing the pesticide was authorised for use in England following lobbying from the National Farmers Union and British Sugar.

In November 2017, Michael Gove, as Environment Secretary, promised to ban this pesticide, in line with a formal ban by EU members in 2018, put in place in order to protect bees. He said: “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators... I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

He also wrote in the Guardian: “Unless the evidence base changes again, the government will keep these restrictions in place after we have left the EU.” 

We wrote to DEFRA to ask them what evidence they were relying on to support their claim that “protecting pollinators is a priority” but we received no response. 

Verdict

DEFRA’s claim was mealy-mouthed but nevertheless a lie. Michael Gove’s firm statement in 2017 that “we cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk” turned out to be worthless. 

When we contacted DEFRA to ask about this, we received no response. 

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