Friends of the Earth have backed the pledge of three dozen wildlife and environmental groups for a complete ban on neonicotinoids to be extended to wheat.
A new Friends of the Earth report published today (Thursday January 5) at the Oxford Real Farming Conference warned the pesticide must be wiped of its use on wheat and follow in the footsteps of other banned neonicotinoid pesticides due to their ‘high acute risk’ to bees.
The report found the use of clothianidin, a type of neonicotinoid used as a seed coating on wheat, often leaches into soils and water that further harms plants and flowers where bees feed.
Nature Campaigner Sandra Bell said: “There is increasing scientific evidence that the use of neonicotinoids on wheat poses a threat to our bees, birds and butterflies – current restrictions on these pesticides must be extended to cover this crop.
“We cannot afford to gamble with nature in this way if we are to carry on producing British food and safeguarding the health of our countryside.”
The campaign group has called for the chemical, which in 2014 was used on more than 700,000 ha (1,729,737 acres) of wheat in the UK, exceeding the total area of oilseed rape for that year - a crop which is capped by the restriction – to be controlled in confidence as the UK faces leaving the EU.
Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom has been encouraged by the group to support farmers to make better efforts to cut pesticide use, with pushes to the UK government to make a commitment to continue and increase neonicotinoid restrictions no matter what the outcome of the country’s relationship with the EU.
Ms Bell said there was evidence neonicotinoids also had a much wider impact in farming, including effects on earthworms and natural predators that farmers are increasingly reliant upon for pest control.
But NFU vice president Guy Smith slammed these claims and said there remained no proof that neonicotinoids were responsible for widespread declines in bee and pollinator populations.
He said: “Friends of the Earth’s latest idea to limit the use of neonicotinoids on wheat is not justified by the available scientific evidence and could have serious consequences for farmers’ ability to grow food sustainably.
"With no restrictions of this kind anywhere else in the world farmers would be put at an extreme competitive disadvantage without the use of neonicotinoids on wheat."