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The Observer view on the UK’s toxic stance on sugar farming | Observer editorial


Neonicotinoids kill bees and destroy the environment. A truly green government would find a better solution to the problem of aphid-borne disease

Near the end of 2022, the secretary of state for the environment, Thérèse Coffey, committed the UK to halving the impact of damaging pesticides on the nation’s wildlife and flora by the year 2030. It is a laudable aspiration. Biodiversity in Britain, as across the planet, is in peril as the climate heats up, pollution causes increasing harm to the landscape and alien species spread over the countryside. Considerable care will be needed if we are to protect nature, which is vital to our health, wellbeing and survival, from continued degradation. Limiting the ecological injury of pesticides is an encouraging move.

Unfortunately, Coffey’s words have not been matched by action. Incredibly, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decided to waive restrictions on the use of a class of highly dangerous powerful toxins and permit their release on crops. Neonicotinoids have been described as the Novichok of bees: a single teaspoon is sufficient to kill more than a billion, say scientists.

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