Friends of the Earth has confirmed it is launching a legal challenge to the Government decision to allow farmers to use neonicotinoids in some parts of England this autumn.
The environmental charity notified the Government on Friday (August 21) that it has applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision.
Last month, the Government agreed to the emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments this autumn over a limited area where the pest cabbage stem flea beetle poses the biggest threat.
The derogation is limited to five per cent of the OSR crop covering around 30,000ha over four counties in England - Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire - for 120 days.
Friends of the Earth said it was challenging the decision because it believes it did not comply with EU law which sets out the conditions under which governments can grant emergency use of the restricted neonicotinoids.
Citing figures from AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds it said this year’s harvest had seen a good crop of oilseed rape despite the restrictions on neonicotinoids, with yields 3-9 per cent higher than the 10 year national average.
Friends of the Earth bees campaigner Dave Timms said: “We believe that allowing farmers to use these ‘banned’ pesticides is unnecessary, harmful and unlawful.
“These neonicotinoid pesticides have been restricted throughout the EU because scientists say they are harming bees, which are crucial for pollinating Britain’s fields, allotments and gardens.
“The Government should be listening to the science and championing the long-term interests of our threatened bees.
“The distribution of these seeds should now be halted until the courts can decide whether their use is lawful.”
In a judicial review pre-action letter to Defra Secretary Liz Truss at the end of July, FoE said it was considering legal action after Defra and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) failed to supply it with information on the criteria and process used to permit the derogation from the EU ban.
It claimed the Government’s authorisations appeared to contain ’no conditions to address concerns about the risk to bees from their use, nor any reasons to explain why the authorisations are regarded as a necessary ’emergency’ measure’.
Three neonicotinoids were restricted throughout Europe in December 2013 because of concerns over their impact on honey bee health.
FoE claimed a new study, led by Defra agency Fera, linking losses of honey bee colonies with the use of one of the banned neonicotinoids - imidacloprid - ’further added to the weight of evidence against this type of pesticide’.
A Defra spokesperson said: "It would not be appropriate for us to comment further on ongoing legal proceedings.
“The EU Commission introduced precautionary restrictions on neonicotinoids from December 2013, which the UK has fully implemented.
“The Government makes decisions on pesticides based on the recommendations of senior scientists and independent experts who have looked at the best available scientific evidence."