28 February 2015 | Online since 2003



Defra announces consultation on pollinators


Defra has announced a consultation on the proposed national pollinator strategy. Pollinators are essential for biodiversity and pollination of essential crops and plants.

Pollinating insects include many different species of bees and other insects such as hoverflies, beetles and flies.

Pesticides are damaging bee and other pollinator populations and their numbers are declining at an alarming rate. We need to act now to stop this decline and ensure the strategy protects our bees and other pollinators

Emma Hockridge, Soil Association head of policy commented: “It is positive that the pollinator strategy recognises the work which the Soil Association and other groups have done to raise awareness of the threats to our pollinators and initiatives to tackle this. However, we now need as many people as possible to tell Defra their views on the strategy and help to make sure it starts to reverse the devastating decline in pollinator populations that we have seen in recent years.

“New research has shown that organic farming is the best system for bees and other pollinators. Last month the biggest ever review into whether organic farming benefits wildlife was published – and the findings are clear. It showed that organic farming provides 50% more species of pollinators in our countryside [1]. In contrast, the benefits to pollinators of other farming systems, including integrated pest management (IPM), are not backed by clear scientific evidence.

“We welcome the document’s reference to working with farmers as new evidence emerges. We will be continuing to promote pollinator friendly farming, in particular via our programme of farmer knowledge exchange and innovation – the Duchy Originals Future Farming programme.”

Farmers and growers are acutely aware of the importance of insect pollinators and their declines and are also concerned about the impacts on crop and wild plants, the NFU said today.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith, who was also Pesticide Action Network’s bee friendly farmer of the year in 2012, said: “As managers of agricultural and horticultural land and custodians of much of the wider countryside, farmers and growers have a huge amount to offer in terms of helping to tackle problems faced by pollinators.

“We need to encourage their involvement and part of this will rely on today’s farmers and growers getting due recognition that they are part of the solution for pollinators, rather than hit them again with the ‘agricultural intensification’ stick and blame them as the cause of the problem.

"Farming can and does continue to deliver real benefits for pollinators, through continuing development of Integrated Pest Management techniques across the industry and uptake of positive management to provide food and a home for pollinators, such as the voluntary measures promoted in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment. As part of this commitment, CFE recently launched a new pollinator management guide at the NFU Conference to encourage and help farmers and growers establish more pollen and nectar rich plants and provide insects with sites for nesting and hibernation.

“The NFU realises that pollinators are an incredibly emotive subject which is why, throughout, our main aim was to ensure that this consultation was balanced and based on sound science and evidence.”

The NFU will now be liaising with its membership before responding in detail to the consultation. The consultation closes on May 2 2014.

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