Is post-Brexit Britain poised to embrace less political, more science-based approach to regulating pesticides?

Beet harvester working in front of farm cottages x

[Editor’s note: The following is a briefing paper on bees and neonicotinoids by the House of Commons Library, a library and information resource of the lower house of the British Parliament.]

There are numerous scientific studies on bees and pesticides, but neonicotinoids’ effects are not yet fully understood (and differ among neonicotinoids). Although the evidence is not conclusive, the EU, acting on the precautionary principle, took action in 2013 and imposed restrictions on the use of three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. These controls are often spoken of as a ban, but neonicotinoids may still be used in certain situations and so it is more accurate to describe them as restrictions.

The UK government did not consider that the evidence merited this action, but abided by the restrictions, although its granting of emergency authorisations for neonicotinoid use in 2015 prompted concern in some quarters that it might seek to overturn the restrictions.

For policy makers and other concerned bodies, the situation remains contested and unclear: an October 2015 review statement by a group of pollinator experts concluded that the evidence still does not provide a clear steer for policy makers in relation to neonicotinoids.


It is sometimes asserted that neonicotinoids must be harmful to bees, but the picture emerging from the numerous scientific studies on bees and pesticides is more complicated and more nuanced.

Related article:  Genetic Literacy Project’s Top 6 Stories for the Week, March 6, 2017

Concerns about the future of the restrictions have been amplified by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.


In the Brexit white paper published on February 2, 2017, the Government sets out its approach to agriculture, fisheries and food. It confirms that the UK will not be seeking to remain in the Single Market and argues that Brexit presents an opportunity to create a “world-leading” food and farming industry.

Further details of the UK government’s approach to agriculture – and more specifically to pesticide regulation – post-Brexit have yet to emerge but, before the referendum, farming minister George Eustice was reported as saying that the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US style, risk-based approach, allowing faster authorisation of pesticides.

This might therefore indicate that the Government could be minded to take a very different approach to pesticides approval with any opportunity for more UK autonomy….


The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Commons Library analysis: Bees and neonicotinoids

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia

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