A High Court judgein England is ruling today on whether campaigners can challenge the lifting of a ban on the use of “bee-harming” pesticides in four English counties.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) is seeking permission to apply for judicial review of a decision in July allowing farmers to drill oilseed rape seeds coated with two neonicotinoid pesticides this autumn.
An EU-wide two-year ban was put in place after some studies showed the pesticides caused significant harm to bees.
FoE says over half a million people have signed petitions against a decision by England's Environment Secretary Liz Truss to use emergency powers to allow their use in the four counties.
The British Government authorised a 120-day easing of the ban in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire after the National Farmers Union (NFU) said cabbage fly stem beetle attacks were likely to threaten crops.
FoE are accusing the Environment Secretary of taking an unlawful approach to the grant of emergency authorisations.
Gerry Facenna, appearing for FoE, said at a recent hearing it was an important test case concerning the protection of bees and other pollinating insects.
Although it was too late to stop the pesticides Modesto and Cruiser OSR being used this autumn, it was clear further applications would be made to use neonicotinoid products next year.
Mr Facenna argued that, under EU regulations, emergency authorisations could only be granted in “special circumstances” where a danger to crops “cannot be controlled by another reasonable means”.
He told Mrs Justice Patterson the Government had failed to satisfy these strict tests and the regulations were being unlawfully circumvented.
Legal teams for the Government and the NFU joined forces to argue the authorisation was justified.
They submitted proper investigations were conducted to see if alternative methods of pest control were available, but there was an absence of evidence that any would be effective.
They said the use of neonicotinoid was being strictly controlled, with decisions as to whether it was necessary being carried out at a “field by field” level.