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Farmers buzz with ideas to help revive bee population

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: June 25, 2014

Bumble Bee

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THE National Farmers' Union says it is keen to work with the Government on a new strategy to help bees and other pollinating insects in the UK.

The NFU announced its intentions to get involved with the initiative following a hearing by the Environmental Audit Committee which flagged up ways farmers can manage their land to help insect numbers recover and thrive.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (Defra) is getting insight from academics, pesticide manufacturers and the farming industry into pollinator research and protection measures.

The proposed actions suggested in the strategy include promoting environmental land management measures through the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) and introducing integrated pest management.

The NFU's horticulture adviser and lead on bee health issues, Dr Chris Hartfield, said: "We are supportive of the proposals in this strategy – they are very important steps to take and the evidence-based approach to these is something we commend.

"Farmers across the country are already supporting the CFE, which includes voluntary efforts to encourage and safeguard pollinators amongst other measures to increase biodiversity. In addition to the benefits pollen and nectar-rich and sheltered habitat alongside crops can provide pollinators, the hope is, in time, research will be able to demonstrate the precise value of pollinators in increasing crop quality or quantity."

A third of the nation's food crops are pollinated by bees and other insects and the economic value of pollination services globally provided by bees is thought to amount to around £265 billion.

In recent winters the number of bees in Europe has fallen by more than 50% and factors such as diseases and parasites, climate change and industrial agricultural practices have been blamed. The use of pesticides by farmers is often put forward as a potential cause of the decline.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) also welcomed the draft strategy, but says it has concerns over the potential of a ban on pesticides.

The rural watchdog has opposed the decision to ban the three products blamed for a decline in bees, which come under the banner of "neonicotinoids" and insists the evidence supporting the decision lacks testing and was made on the basis of "theoretical assumptions".

The organisation says it would rather see an improvement in the understanding of the effects of neonicotinoids.

The final National Pollinator Strategy will be published by the government in the autumn.

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