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Bees: the battle is not over yet

Rob Drake-Knight reports on a unique collaboration between an environmental organisation and an eco-fashion label who together aim to raise greater awareness of the plight of bees.....

Bees pollinate 71 of our top 100 food crops. Their population is crashing and therefore so is their ability to continue to pollinate our crops; it's an environmental emergency on a global scale and is affecting our already stretched food supplies. And the reason for their decline? Neonicotinoids.

To protect them from pests, crops are sprayed with pesticides such as Neonicotinoids. A side effect of this ‘protection' from pests is the poisoning and killing of Bees; in fact the farmers that use Neonicotinoids are shooting themselves in the foot. By protecting their crops from pests they are inadvertently killing the animals that perpetuate the survival of those crops in the first place.

To put the impact into a  financial context; the work of pollinating bees is valued at £430m a year and the cost of replicating their pollination manually would cost £1.8 billion.

In April 2013 the EU Commission banned the use of Neonicotinoids for two years - great news you might think. A solution to the  issue? Bee populations will rise and everything will be hunky dory? Well, it's a complicated, highly politicised subject.

In January of this year the European Food Safety Authority report stated; ‘Neonicotinoids pose an "unacceptable" threat to bees and that they should not be applied to crops that are attractive to bees'. Then the two year ban was introduced. However, the UK actively lobbied against the introduction of a ban, and it has been suggested that this is due to a link between UK government and certain companies that produce pesticides. With financial and political pressures and bad science posing a risk of a re-introduction of Neonicotinoids the future of Bees is still uncertain.

We can - and must - all act to help push through a full ban. Eco-fashion company Rapanui are working on a campaign with the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) to raise awareness of the plight of Bees and completely eradicate the use of Neonicotinoids.

We have produced a t-shirt to raise funds to support the campaign which aims to;

• Encourage the government to adopt a Pollinator Action Plan to protect pollinators.

• End the use of neonicotinoids in industry, in their supply chains and practices.

• Raise public awareness of the value of pollinators to the UK economy and promote public action

The bees campaign has been supported by a host of celebrities including chef Ainsley Harriott and ‘Lock Stock' actor Jason Flemyng. The t-shirt features a worker bee wearing a gas mask, representing the poisoned conditions in which they work and was created using 100% pesticide free, organic materials in a factory powered by wind energy using ethical labour. £5 from each Save the Bees t-shirt sold goes direct to EJF to support this campaign. 

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