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I understand the concerns you raise about the measures to protect bee populations and the recent vote on neonicotinoid pesticides in the European Commission.

I know just how important effective pollination is to the horticulture industry we have in the Vale of Evesham and that is why I welcome a series of initiatives supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to protect the bee population. These initiatives include the Healthy Bees Plan to train beekeepers to respond to pest and disease threats and the Biodiversity 2020 programme. The objectives of this programme include a 200,000 hectare increase in priority habitats where bees can thrive. Ministers have also pledged 2.5 million of Defra funding (2010-2015) towards the 10 million Insect Pollinators Initiative which will benefit both bumble and honey bees.

The Government takes any threat to bees very seriously and has approached the issue of neonicotinoids in this light. Laboratory studies have shown that bees may be significantly affected by neonicotinoids. However, field data on honey bees indicates that the level of exposure in real life does not lead to harmful effects.
The European Commission has now drawn up plans for a ban on the use of three neonicotinoids on crops "attractive to bees" and on spring cereals. This includes a ban on the sale and use of all seeds for those crops treated with the three active substances and a review after two years. The Government has continued to argue that the European Commission should respond in a way that is proportionate to the scientific evidence and to take account of research now being carried out by Defra on the impact of neonicotinoids in field conditions.

Regrettably, the Commission have chosen to ignore this evidence and the views of many other European Governments. In a recent vote on the Commission's proposed ban, the UK abstained alongside 13 other Member States who either abstained or voted against the Commission. As a result, the proposed ban has not yet been adopted.

In addressing the problems facing our bees and pollinators it is vital to understand them, take all the evidence into account and make a considered response. The Government believes that hasty action is very likely to be ineffective or to have unforeseen consequences. As such, it has said that it will continue to look at bee health and will take whatever action is appropriate to safeguard these creatures.

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