The United Kingdom launched its National Pollinator Strategy on Tuesday, a plan aimed at protecting bees and other pollinating insects from habitat and species destruction. The plan includes agreements with government and private landowners to help protect bee habitats throughout England, the BBC reports.
UK Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss told the BBC that the National Pollinator Strategy (NPS) was, “all about helping our pollinators survive and thrive.” She said the plan would mainly focus on farmland in England, noting that, “Pollinators are really important for food and farming – for our rural economy, which is worth £210 billion per year.”
The crux of the NPS is a “stewardship” component, which incentivizes farmers to plant certain wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly crops, and to generally conduct their farming in a way that is more hospitable to pollinating insects.
However, critics of the new strategy fear that this new plan does not take enough measures to protect bee populations. Biologist Dave Goulson told the Guardian that, “the NPS suggests that it will encourage farmers to adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies that aim to reduce pesticide input, but it offers no practical mechanism to achieve this. Most farmers are highly unlikely to even read the NPS, let alone change their farming practices as a result.”
Other critics, such as Matt Shadlow of the environmental charity Buglife, said that while the NPS was a good idea in concept, stricter regulations on pesticides were necessary to protect honeybee populations. “We’re not against pesticides entirely, but we’re keen that there’s better testing, so the ones that are ultimately used aren’t damaging to bees,” Shadlow told the BBC.
As honeybee populations decline worldwide, there has been an increase in protective measures for pollinating insects. The NPS comes approximately one year after the European Union’s ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, which pose a severe risk to pollinating insects such as honeybees.