Syngenta has withdrawn its application for neonicotinoid use. What are people saying?

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beeGuy Smith from the NFU may be disappointed about the Syngenta’s decision to withdraw its application for neonicotinoid use on oilseed rape. But I’m a little disappointed in some of the one-sided reporting I’ve seen, and how quiet it’s been in the news since the decision. I only found out because I’ve been following what’s going on, and someone who knew I was interested told me they’d seen something somewhere (helpful). But I’d have expected to see much more celebration, and a lot more news. Surely this is as big as Google going down for a few minutes minutes – this is our polinator’s safety, for the forseeable! Or at least until next winter, when Syngenta re-applies.

38 Degrees, Friends of the Earth and Avaaz are, of course, celebrating a massive success, as well they should. They got support from hundreds of thousands of people, including creating a people-swarm on Downing Street, protesting the proposal. The Guardian had a good piece on Syngenta’s withdrawl, and even the Daily Mail had pretty good coverage (yes, really).

Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Historian, Climate Change Sceptic, and longtime supporter of Syngenta’s, through his dallying, actually forced Syngenta to withdraw their backing. Because neither he, nor the rest of the government could reach a decision, Syngenta missed a deadline, and slunk away. But don’t worry, I have complete faith that given time, they would have been able to analyse all the data and to come to an unbiased conclusion that would take the safety and security of farming and biodiversity seriously for generations to come.

It’s not really unexpected, getting a one-sided story from the NFU – they are reporting their own take on the issue, and are backing (or being backed?) by big agriculture and agribusiness. Guy Smith, in his wisdom, said:

It is … of concern that that the whole issue has been heavily politicised and manipulated with misinformation by campaign groups with their own agenda against pesticide use, without concern for the consequences for this country’s productive capacity or indeed for the potential unintended consequences for bee populations.

This loss of this treatment will make it more complicated to grow oilseed rape this season. The NFU will closely monitor the effects with a view to supporting a further application next year.

That’s pretty much all he said, and yet it’s a lot. He accused protestors of lying, of not caring about farmers’ production or about the bees. Yup, this whole protest has been because we don’t care about bees. Nail on the head.

The Farmer’s Guardian, though obviously depressed at this news, at least reported the positive reaction from the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth, though much shorter than the complaints from Guy Smith and Paul Rooke of the the Agricultural Industries Confederation. Cute trick, right? Put the ones you don’t like at the end, and keep them small. Maybe people won’t read that far. What is actually really interesting are the comments, which are overwhelmingly positive about the decision.

It was particularly interesting to see accusations of ‘political lobbying’ aimed at the protestors. As though any of the volunteer-led, not-for-profit, online petition and environmentalist groups and platforms could hold a candle to the amount of money used for lobbying in big businesses. It’d be funny, if it wasn’t such a nasty thing to do – accuse the opposition of something they barely do, before they accuse you of something you’ve already got covered.

My favourite comment so far, from Barry Gardiner, shadow environment minister:

It would have driven a coach and horses through the temporary [EU] ban put in place to gather scientific evidence.

That’s right, it’s a bloody EU law which went into effect like 20 minutes ago. How about we just follow the rules for a little bit, instead of stirring up trouble? We could, for instance, uphold a healthy precautionary principle, and let the scientists do their jobs so we can figure out what’s going on with neonicotinoids.