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UK designers unite to save bees

British fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett create a buzz at a London bee protest.

UK designers unite to save bees

The international fashion icons lent their celebrity status to the environmental cause, attending a protest outside Parliament Square in London last week.

The fashion duo joined bee campaigners hoping to urge British parliamentarians to support a proposed European Union (EU) ban on bee-harming pesticides in Brussels this week.

Westwood and Hamnett, on behalf of the group Friends of the Earth, handed a petition with 300,000 signatures to Downing Street, demanding the government vote in favour of a crucial vote to ban using the pesticides on flowering crops.

“Why is government supporting big business because it doesn’t help people at all, what is good for the planet is good for the economy, not what is good for big business is good for the economy and this is what our problem is,” Westwood said, outside Number 10 Downing Street.

Neonicotinoids (or nerve-agent pesticides) have been blamed for the mass decline in bee numbers and collapse of vital bee colonies across the world. Bees perform a vital role in pollinating crucial food crops and if they were to disappear, campaigners argue that it could have a devastating consequences for the entire planet.

Months of fiery debate have pitted environmental groups, the chemical industry, farmers, scientists and politicians against one another. Many advisers have insisted there is not enough evidence to support a two-year ban on the pesticides, arguing that outlawing the chemicals could result in rising food costs and the use of older and more hazardous chemicals on crops.

But campaigners believe pre-emptive action should be taken on pesticides, while more research into the effects on bees can be carried out.

“If there’s any chance that they’re killing the bees as a precautionary measure they need to be banned. And the British government is committing political suicide I think by not supporting this ban, I mean we’ve even got Bulgaria supporting this for Christ sake,” said Hamnett, who has campaigned against pesticides for decades to reporters.

Earlier this year, EU governments failed to agree on a ban of the three biggest pesticide offenders, but the European Commission has threatened to enforce a ban if a compromise cannot be reached this week.

Bulgaria is the only country believed to have changed its position on the matter, with Britain one of the five countries to abstain.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

“As the proposal currently stands we could not support an outright ban. We have always been clear that a healthy bee population is our top priority, that’s why decisions need to be taken using the best possible scientific evidence and we want to work with the commission to achieve this.”


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