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Help more farmers to be bee friendly

The Wildlife Trusts are asking for your help in telling British Sugar to help more farmers go neonic-free, to help bees and other wildlife.

Bees. Credit: Miles Wilis

Bees. Credit: Miles Wilis

British Sugar is the company that recently asked the UK Government to lift a ban on a chemical, called neonicotinoids, known to kill bees, for use on sugar beet crops in England. Infuriatingly and for the fourth year in a row, Farming Minister Mark Spencer said yes to this request.

Just half a teaspoon of this chemical can kill 1.25 billion bees. A minuscule trace can disrupt a bee’s ability to navigate and reproduce, with long-lasting consequences for their survival. When neonicotinoids are washed into streams and rivers they are extremely toxic to aquatic invertebrates and further pollute our already struggling waterways.

This is why we need neonic-free sugar. British Sugar is the sole buyer and processor of UK-grown sugar, but currently the company provides no way for beet farmers who choose not to use neonics, to market their sugar as neonic-free. And as consumers, we also have no way of knowing if the sugar we buy is affected. So with the government caving in, only British Sugar can make this change happen. 

Giving us a choice not to buy neonicotinoid sugar and helping farmers choosing to grow sugar without neonicotinoids (known as neonics) is a key way to a more nature friendly future. Many farmers are trying to do this, but they need more support. And there's plenty of evidence that our food can be produced in a way that helps, rather than harms, nature.

Neonic-free sugar is possible:
In 2022, 29% of sugar beet farmers did not use the neonicotinoid Thiamethoxam after the UK Government approved its use.
In 2023, this number rose to 40% of sugar beet farmers. 

So, a growing number of farmers do not want to use damaging neonicotinoids, and they should be rewarded for this.

We know the public want neonic-free sugar. In 2021 over 100,000 people signed a letter to the then-Prime Minister when this authorisation was first granted, calling for it to be overturned. Over 15,000 messages were sent, in the last 6 weeks, to the UK Farming Minister calling on him to listen to the science and support nature-friendly farmers.

Please help The Wildlife Trusts to persuade British Sugar to do the right thing. Sign the petition! Tell British Sugar you want them to support farmers who choose not to use neonics. They should have the opportunity to market their produce as neonic-free, and be paid a premium for this. 

You can also add your own views about why you want neonic-free sugar and more nature-friendly farming. We will share your views, but not your personal details with the UK Government and British Sugar as part of this campaign.

You can read more about the campaign and other ways you can help.

Published Thursday 22 February 2024

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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Vicki Hird MSc FRES is an award -winning expert, author, strategist and senior manager who has been working on environment, food and farming issues for over 30 years. Vicki’s book: Rebugging the Planet is a homage to insects and other invertebrates, why they are so essential to our ecosystem and what we can do to help them.

Vicki Hird
Strategic Lead on Agriculture for the Wildlife Trusts

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