THE SOIL ASSOCIATION has responded to the Government’s recent National Pollinator Strategy, welcoming the goal to halt and reverse the decline in pollinators.
The organisation has said that new evidence is already showing how the loss of bees and other pollinators is affecting farmers with studies suggesting crops such as field bean, apple and strawberry in the UK may already be suffering from insufficient pollination .
They continue to say that the temporary suspension by the European Union of three neonicotinoid insecticides will not be enough to halt the massive decline in wild pollinators, nor remove the risk to honey bees.
The Soil Association pointed out that the Proposed Strategy – consultation on which closed on Saturday 2 May 2014 – currently proposes no real change to farming systems, as all it advocates is more ‘Integrated Pest Management’ (IPM). There is no agreed definition of IPM, and it is variously claimed to encompass a huge range of management practices, from the current standard of most UK conventional farming at one end of the spectrum, to organic farming at the other.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director said: “Our pollinators are vital and so we are calling on Defra to make clear that their preferred European definition of IPM does also refer to organic farming, and to drop their claim that there is scientific evidence that IPM could help bees, when none in fact exists.
“Indeed, if most current UK farming is correctly classified as IPM, as the National Farmers’ Union and most supermarkets say, then the evidence shows that it is definitely not beneficial for pollinators, as these have either continued to decline, or at least not recovered, after many years of IPM farming in the UK.”
In the latest scientific study, researchers from Oxford University have found an increase of approximately 50% in different pollinator species on organic compared to non-organic farms, based on data from nearly 100 different studies . Furthermore, a recent global review of 39 different studies on bee numbers has found that there are on average 74% more wild bees on organic farms .
Peter Melchett continued: “This research shows there is a clear solution for pollinators with a known outcome – support organic farming and we can have 50% more species of pollinators in our countryside.”