A draft Government action plan published today [Thursday 6 March 2014] aimed at safeguarding Britain’s bees and other under-threat pollinators, must be considerably strengthened if it’s going to be effective, Friends of the Earth warned today.

The Government agreed to introduce a National Pollinator Strategy (NPS) at a Bee Summit organised by Friends of the Earth last year, following intense campaigning by the environment charity and other organisations.

Friends of the Earth welcomes the Government’s acceptance of the need for urgent action to tackle declining bee populations, but says the draft National Pollinator Strategy is inadequate in a number of areas, including:

• Intensive farming. This has a huge impact on the decline in the population of bees and other pollinators, but Government proposals for confronting this are generally weak, vague and reliant on entirely voluntary actions;

• There is little determination to tackle rising pesticide use – despite increasing evidence about the potentially devastating impact on our bees;

• There is far too little onus on developers to safeguard pollinators – better action is needed to improve land use so bee habitats increase with development, not the reverse;

• Funding for the strategy is unclear or inadequate. The Government cannot just rely on people’s goodwill to act. It should take action by putting its money where its mouth is.

Friends of the Earth Senior Nature Campaigner Paul de Zylva said:

The Government rightly recognises the need for an action plan to safeguard Britain’s vital bees – but these proposals need to be considerably strengthened if we’re to get Britain buzzing again.

Bee Bathed in Pollen by Jacopo Werther

Bee by Jacopo Werther

Pollinators play a crucial role in our farms, gardens and countryside – we cannot afford to take them for granted.

Our bees are facing an unprecedented crisis – Ministers must ensure all the threats are tackled, especially those from intensive farming and pesticides.”

The environment charity is urging people concerned about the plight of British bees to respond to the public consultation by signing a petition calling on Bees Minister Lord de Mauley to improve the NPS: www.foe.co.uk/beespetition.

Friends of the Earth has led the campaign to save British bees and other pollinators since launching its Bee Cause campaign in April 2012, which called on the Government to introduce a national Bee Action Plan (National Pollinator Strategy). Since then the campaign has:

• Persuaded over 200 MPs, businesses such as the Co-operative and B&Q, the Women’s Institute and over 70,000 individuals to back our call for a Bee Action Plan.

• Persuaded numerous large garden centres and DIY stores to remove products containing neonicotinoid pesticides from their shelves. The chemicals were subsequently banned by the EU at the end of last year. www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/eu_pesticide_vote_29042013

• Supported the creation of more than 100 ‘Bee Worlds’ around the UK – areas with the right kind of plants and habitat to provide bees with the food and shelter they need, by providing wildflower seeds and planting advice.

• Commissioned new research highlighting the threats posed to some of the UK’s most iconic bee species: www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/new_report_uk_bee_decline_09052013

• Organised an historic Bee Summit in London last June, attended by bee experts and officials including Lord de Mauley, who announced the Government’s intention to introduce a National Pollinator Strategy, and a further local summit in Oxford last month to coordinate local action to protect bees. www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/govt_to_introduce_pollinator_action_plan_28062013

A Defra spokesperson said:

We take this issue seriously which is why we are leading on a nationwide strategy for pollinators. This is a consultation document and we will continue to discuss our proposals with all interested parties.

"A key part of our approach is to address the current lack of evidence so we can better understand what future action may be necessary.”

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