Opinion

The Government is Already Backtracking on Their Environmental Promises

Rosie Bowers is a second year Drama student.

Featured photography by Chloe H Prince and Zoe Vangangelt.

On January 8th, the neonicotinoid Thiamethoxam was approved for use by the government. This might not sound like any kind of news, until you find out that thiamethoxam is a pesticide that is known to harm, disable, and kill bees. We’re just one week into Brexit reality, and already our standards have been dangerously lowered.

For those that don’t know, this pesticide was banned for use by the EU in 2018, a move that was welcomed by the very government that has just authorised it. Specifically, they have allowed it to be used on sugar beet crops, which are grown commercially for sugar production. While I can see why the government would want to hoard their precious sugar beets, let’s first look at what else the government has recently come up with.

The 25-year environment plan!

This showstopping pledge focuses on clean air, soil health, and clean water. What a revelation!

I’m no environmental expert, but how does killing off an already declining species factor into that, exactly? And of all species to pick on, you chose bees? Sounds like a classic movie villain move. Now, we all know the government. They lie and steal and generally treat their country like an emotionally abused and neglected child. And like the child, we believe their pathetic apologies, and convince ourselves that it’s our fault the planet is dying. My point is, we all expected them to backtrack on their promises.

But this move, that actively harms the environment, for the benefit of sugar, is a severe miscalculation of our trust.

In 2017, when this ban was proposed, then environment secretary Michael Gove, said “Unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit.” Honestly, the party deserves a round of applause. After all, they did maintain the restrictions – for an entire week!

So, we’ve traded bees for sugar, and the government benefits. They, along with the lucky beet farmers line their pockets with the filthy profits while the poor get poorer and the environment gets sicker. And I’m sure it’s no coincidence point that the managing director of British Sugar, Paul Kenward, is married to conservative MP Victoria Atkins. Britain Deserves Better indeed.

Farm conservation advisor, Joanne Leigh said via twitter today: “I don’t want to lose our key pollinators for the sake of sugar, the number 1 health issue to humans right now…”. Leigh later went on to speculate; “I can’t help but think this is a moneymaking scheme here, for the government and large food companies.”

This move has been promoted by the NFU (National Farmers’ Union), which comes at no surprise. Despite what you may think, farming is like any business. It exists for profit, and if farmers can’t generate that profit quickly, they are forced to take unethical routes. Farmers need to be incentivised to farm for the benefit of the environment, not the destruction of it. At the moment, because of capitalism, they can’t do that without running at a loss.

If we can’t have sugar without killing bees, we shouldn’t have sugar.

This latest backtracking by the conservative party sets a dangerous precedent for a post-Brexit UK. The only hope is that, despite the authorisation of this pesticide, farmers on an individual level decide the cost of the British bee population is higher than the profit of sugar beet farms.

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