The Wildlife Trusts has called on the Government to introduce a pesticide reduction target which cuts overall use by at least 50 per cent over the next 10 years.
The organisation said the target must be set in the National Action Plan on the sustainable use of pesticides, hitting out at Ministers for failing to live up to their 2018 promise to review the plan.
The call was made in a new report, Reversing the Decline of Insects, which also recommends farmers be given support to adopt ‘insect-friendly’ practices, and says pesticide standards should not be weakened in future trade deals.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said: “In my lifetime, 41 per cent of wildlife species in the UK have suffered strong or moderate decreases in their numbers and insects have suffered most.
“This has had a huge effect on the rest of the natural world. The vital role insects perform is undermined and everything which depends on them suffers, from hedgehogs to nightingales, wildflowers to wetlands.
“The Agriculture Bill is a golden opportunity to set high standards in law and make sure insect-friendly farming practices are rewarded.
“We want to see an ambitious pesticide reduction target and at least 30 per cent of land being managed for nature so insects can become abundant once more.”
The Wildlife Trusts’ call comes just one month after the Pesticide Action Network claimed in its own report, Toxic Trade, that new trade deals with the USA and others could drive down UK pesticide standards.
At the time, the report’s co-author Dr Emily Lydgate, senior lecturer in environmental law at the University of Sussex, said: “A clear and central objective of US negotiators is for the UK to lower its pesticide standards.
“The current picture in the UK of intense political pressure coupled with a lack of parliamentary and public scrutiny means the risk of this happening is very high.”