Your Leader on Saturday rightly highlighted the important role bees play in food production, emphasising the serious implications for food production should we no longer benefit from their presence. Unfortunately, your proposed solution - a clampdown on pesticides - would have similarly severe consequences. It is estimated that as much as 40% of the world's food production would be lost to pests and diseases without them.
Modern agriculture relies on crop protection products, such as insecticides, to maintain a safe and affordable supply of food. It also recognises that they are, by design, intended to control pests such as insects. That is why all products being used have undergone rigorous testing as part of the most stringent approvals process in the world, and farmers who use these products undertake continuous training so that they do so safely and responsibly. Consequently, the way pesticides interact with wildlife when used in real-life scenarios out in the field is often very different to the sort of impacts observed under artificial conditions. We must not conflate the two and design policy simply with the latter in mind.
The crop protection industry takes any new evidence about the effect of its products on non-target species seriously. Both bees and pesticides are a crucial part of modern farming. The key to meeting the food security challenge of this century (addressing the need to feed 2bn more people by 2050) will be found in striking the right balance between optimising production and protecting biodiversity and the environment. Simplistic solutions such as those you propose may lead to unintended, and very serious, consequences.
Nick von Westenholz
Crop Protection Association