The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, appears set to defy public and political pressure by scuppering a proposed Europe-wide suspension of three pesticides linked to serious harm in bees.
Almost three-quarters of the UK public backs the ban, according to a poll released on Wednesday, but the UK is not currently expected to support the measure when the European commission (EC) votes on it on Friday, leaving it little chance of being passed.
“Owen Paterson is about to put the short-term interests of farmers and the pesticide industry ahead of Britain’s food supply,” said Ian Bassin, of the campaign group Avaaz, which has amassed 2.5m signatures supporting a ban on neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides. The YouGov poll, conducted for Avaaz, found that 71% of Britons said the UK should vote in favour of the EU moratorium.
The proposed suspension has prompted fierce lobbying on both sides. The Guardian understands that at present the opposition of the UK, Germany and Spain outweighs the support of France, the Netherlands and Poland, although campaigners hope to change the minds of ministers in the final days before the vote. The chemical manufacturers claim that a suspension would reduce food production, while conservationists say these claims are unsubstantiated and even greater harm results from the loss of bees and the vital pollination service they provide.
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