PETER FROST reports on how a relentless and secret lobbying of the Tory government by agribusiness has brought a banned bee-killing poison back to our countryside.
Do you remember that once David Cameron promised that his government would be the greenest ever? Well that is just one more velvet glove that has been discarded to reveal yet another Tory iron fist.
Cameron’s Tory government along with its most un-green minister to destroy the environment Liz Truss (below) has caved in to pressure from the agrochemical farming lobby and agreed to let bee-harming pesticides back into British fields this autumn.
Truss and her team at Defra have ignored the overwhelming science showing that neonicotinoids harm honeybees, bumblebees and many other pollinators and beneficial insects.
After months of secrecy the government has agreed to allow farmers — in some parts of England — to plant seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. They claim it is only a temporary measure but in fact it is much more likely to become permanent and nationwide.
Friends of the Earth bees’ campaigner Paul de Zylva told the Morning Star: “It’s scandalous that the government has caved in to National Farmers Union (NFU) pressure and given permission for some farmers to use banned pesticides that have been shown to harm our precious bees.
“Ever more scientific evidence shows just how dangerous these chemicals are to bees and other pollinators — they should have no place in our fields and gardens.”
Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of Cambridge confirms this: “We now have robust evidence that neonicotinoids have a serious impact on free-living bumblebee (below) colonies in real farmed landscapes.”
The government has been negotiating with agrochemical industry in secret. It continues to refuse to make publicly available the NFU application and even suppressed the notes of its expert advisers’ meeting.
Public pressure finally got these released and published but surprise, surprise they say nothing about the alleged scientific basis for the decision.
Truss and other ministers promised that decisions would be science-based. But how can we believe them if the secrecy continues?
The government tell us that this use of chemicals is only a limited and temporary permission for one crop in a particular areas of the country, but we know the NFU continues to lobby for the extension of use for these poisons that we know kill bees.
These neonicotinoids are banned all over the EU and there’s more than enough evidence to make the ban permanent here in Britain.
For instance the ingredient allowed under this change of mind by Truss and the government — clothianidin — was tested in the recent study. It showed that bumblebees in landscapes with clothianidin-treated oilseed rape produced only a third as many queens as those in landscapes treated with other — non neonicotinoid — insecticides.
The NFU and the industrial farming lobby continue their campaign to get the ban lifted all across the country. Commercial beekeepers are deeply worried both about crop pollination and honey production.
Public pressure, protest demonstrations, online petitions have all shown the government that most people are totally opposed to industrial farming lobby and their poison sprays.
The lack of government transparency shows how much pressure it has been under from members of the public who are totally opposed to the use of neonicotinoids.
Who makes the neonicotinoids?
The particular neonicotinoid now allowed on some English farms is called clothianidin. It is made by agrochemical giant Bayer.
Bayer has an interesting history. It can trace its origins back to the gigantic IG Farben German chemical company. IG Farben built the concentration camp at Auschwitz and were the camp’s legal owners. It was Farben that developed and sold the poison gas – Zyklon B used in the gas chambers.
At Auschwitz Farben company representatives toured the camp to select the 10,000 fit slave workers needed for their works. Farben also funded and helped with Josef Mengele’s disgusting so-called medical experiments on Auschwitz child prisoners.
IG Farben directors and managers were tried at Nuremberg. The company promised to pay huge reparations to its former slave workers but the company, although profitable never paid up in any significant measure.
Today German chemical and pharmaceutical giants Bayer can still trace its origins back to the IG Farben company.
Our picture shows Heinrich Himmler inspecting the IG Farben poison plant at Auschwitz.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 11 Sept 2015.