A few notes on yesterday’s Bee Summit in London.
There were about 80 attendees at the Royal College of Physicians near Regents Park. It was organised by the Friends of the Earth and WI and was the second Bee Summit. Various stakeholders were represented: WI, FoE, BugLife, The Wildlife Trusts, NFU, Highwayd England, RSPB, CEH, Universities of Leeds, Reading, Newcastle, Soil Assoc, some locl authorities, the Landscape Institute, beekeepers, M&S, Waitrose, farmers, RHS and PAN UK. The first Bee Summit lobbied Rupert Charles Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley (the then Under Secretary of State for DEFRA) to set up the National Pollinator Strategy which was published by DEFRA last November.
This second summit was for the Bee Coalition (including the WTs) to present on case studies of action taken on the ground since 2013; to report on what we have learned from research in the meantime and to comment on the NPS and make recommendations for Government in the areas that are thought to be weak in commitment to the initial aims set out in the first summit. FoE has launched the ‘Policies for Pollinators’ report on behalf of the Bee Coalition which highlights the issues facing pollinators and shortcomings in the NPS which need addressing.
The current Minister for DEFRA, George Eustice MP has a farming background from Cornwall. He attended to give a 10 minute address. We were disappointed that he arrived late and left almost immediately afterwards. He ran through the elements of the NPS but didn’t give us any of the assurances we are pressing for. He insisted that forthcoming DEFRA cuts should not affect pollinators because Pillar 2 of the CAP should be adequate while other departments within DEFRA will be encouraged to ‘work closer together.’
Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife pointed out that the Governments ‘framework ‘ for monitoring and further research was not a commitment to direct any funding or to create policy. BugLife are well informed of the neonic studies so far and have synthesised a number of articles you can find here.
FoE Director Craig Bennett called for leadership from central Government in the form of policy and support which has not been forthcoming.
The science reported by Geraldine Wright from Newcastle University was very worrying concerning neonicotinoids. The evidence that they have a bad effect on bees at even low, field level concentrations is now building strongly and residence time in soil and uptake by subsequent plant growth (even pollen and nectar strips!) is now a major concern requiring further research. It was made clear that farming attitudes still wish to use neonicotinoids prophylactically rather than not at all or in a threshold based approach as part of Integrated Pest Management. Prof Simon Potts from Reading illustrated how pollinator-dependent crops and bee species ranges and phenology are forecasted to disconnect dramatically by 2050 given current climate change.
The Landscape Institute pushed for GI and cited its online publications that can be used to support local planning authorities and local plans.
Waitrose remains proud of its neonicotinoid-free Leckford Farm owned by the John Lewis Partnership.
The RSWTs main contribution to the Bee Coalition is the work around Bees Needs.
What we’ve been doing in Lincolnshire with Life on the Verge and the Meadow Network Project is really valued by researchers at Reading and the CEH who approached me personally.
A lot of the cited pollinator action on the ground by FoE groups was biased towards cornfield annuals in urban areas but at least it was noted that his has been very successful in just 2-3 years in raising the public’s awareness of the plight of pollinators.
This second summit was at least a good chance to share knowledge and provide mutual encouragement for a variety of initiatives.
Big gains made so far but big challenges ahead with lots to lobby for.