LONDON — Top British fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett joined bee campaigners on Parliament Square in London on Friday, to urge the government to support a proposed European Union (EU) ban on pesticides which harm bees.
Britain is currently blocking attempts to introduce a Europe-wide ban on the world's most widely used insecticides, neonicotinoids, arguing their impact on bees is unclear.
A vote takes place in Brussels on April 29 on whether to ban the poisons on flowering crops.
"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.
Both Britain and Germany were in the minority in abstaining from a vote earlier this year. Hamnett questioned whether this is because two major pesticide companies, Germany's Bayer and Swiss company Syngenta, which has operations in the UK, are lobbying against the ban.
"Are they in bed with Syngenta or Bayer or are they just stupid?'' Hamnett asked.
The fashion duo then handed in a petition to Downing Street which urges the government to put environmental concerns ahead of pressure from the agribusiness lobby.
"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,'' said Westwood outside Number Ten Downing Street.
Bees are currently suffering a sharp decline and colony collapse, due to a variety of reasons.
Bees are crucial for the planet as they perform a vital role in pollinating crops. Campaigners say if bees disappear there will be catastrophic effects on the world.
"I feel angry and worried and sad because bees have been around probably longer than us and I don't think it's right that we can stand aside and see bees die like this and not do something about it,'' said beekeeper Catherine Beaumont on Parliament Square.
The campaigners want pre-emptive action taken on banning pesticides while more research is carried out to fully assess how seriously pesticides affect bees.
"This could become a really serious problem. There are parts of China where they have to pollinate fruit trees by hand because they have wiped out their insects through overuse of chemicals, so we really want to act now before it gets to that stage,'' explained Quentin Gibon who joined the protest wearing a bee costume.
Earlier this year EU governments failed to agree a ban on three widely used pesticides linked to the decline of honeybees, but the European Commission is threatening to force such a ban through unless member states agree on a compromise next week.