The UK government may be about to approve the use of a controversial bee-killing pesticide, wildlife groups fear.
Sources inside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) say that, after pressure from the sugar beet industry, an emergency authorisation of the neonicotinoid Cruiser SB is likely to be announced in the coming weeks.
The pesticide, which is lethal to bees and other insects, is prohibited under European Union law except in extreme circumstances. The insecticides act by binding strongly to receptors in the central nervous system of insects, causing overstimulation of their nerve cells, paralysis and death.
The sugar beet industry says it needs the pesticide to protect seeds from a disease called virus yellows, which reduces yield and sugar content. In 2017, Michael Gove, the then environment secretary, welcomed the EU ban, and promised that “unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit”.
Campaigners claim that if the authorisation does go ahead, it could be in breach of the recently passed Environment Act.