The Prospect Of A World Without Bees Is Not A Niche Concern

Zac Goldsmith
Members of Parliament receive thousands of letters and emails every week, and for the past few years, a staggering number of them have been about bees.

Members of Parliament receive thousands of letters and emails every week, and for the past few years, a staggering number of them have been about bees.

I've lost track of the volume of emails I've received asking me to do something to stop the decline in our pollinators. And my constituents are right to be concerned.

A study just a fortnight ago revealed that on German nature reserves, there has been a 75% drop in flying insect numbers. It is an ecological apocalypse, by any standard, and we have no idea what the ramifications will be.

Here in the UK, our own pollinators are under serious threat, and there is a growing consensus that the cause is the use of harmful chemicals sprayed on our crops - specifically neonicotinoid pesticides.

It's not a niche concern. In addition to an incalculably valuable role in maintaining whole ecosystems, bees and other pollinators boost the yield and quality of UK crops by £400million - £680million every year, and are a critically important part of our thriving £100billion food industry.

But despite the vast quantity of scientific evidence pointing to the damage caused by neonicotinoids, previous moves to limit their use have been met with huge resistance, both from the chemicals industry and agribusiness.

So this week's announcement by Michael Gove that he will introduce a ban is not only good news for this country's ecology - it is the clearest demonstration from the Environment Secretary that he is absolutely ready to take on vested interests where necessary.

He has recognised that a planet without bees and other pollinators is far more dangerous to our future than a restriction on pesticides.

This is just the latest in a string of bold policies we have seen since the election to protect our environment.

In the past few months we have announced plans to introduce a ban on the sale of ivory. We've pledged to increase in the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from 6 months to 5 years, and we will insist on CCTV in abattoirs to prevent abuse. We have drawn up plans to protect our precious marine life by banning microbeads; tiny particles of plastic that cause havoc in our oceans.

Our 5p plastic charge has resulted in nine billion fewer bags being distributed, and one of the last acts of the last Government was to grant protection to an area of the world's oceans equal to the size of India.

There is so much more to do, and Brexit offers us that opportunity. As we leave the European Union, we must maintain the highest standards of environmental protection. But we can go much further than the status quo. Brexit allows us to end the cruelty of live animal exports.

And it allows us to reform the EU's disastrous Common Agriculture Policy; something environmental groups have been dreaming of doing for years. Instead of paying landowners simply for owning land, regardless of what they do with it, we can tailor that support to reward good stewardship of the land and nature. We can raise standards and boost our rural economy at the same time.

No Party deserves the responsibility of Government if it fails the natural world, and I'm proud that the Conservatives are proving themselves to be the party of the environment and animal welfare.

Zac Goldsmith is the Conservative MP for Richmond Park and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee