LONDON (Reuters) - The government must suspend the use of dangerous pesticides linked to the death of bees, a committee of MPs said on Friday.
The Environmental Audit Committee said in a report that the government was relying on "fundamentally flawed" studies on the issue and that two-thirds of honey bees have suffered population declines in the UK.
Britain is blocking attempts to introduce a Europe-wide ban on the world's most widely used insecticides, neonicotinoids, arguing that their impact on bees is unclear.
But the MPs say the government is acting complacently.
"We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action, so we are calling for a moratorium on pesticides linked to bee decline to be introduced by 1 January next year," said Joan Walley, chair of the committee.
France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already suspended the use of certain neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX, which are attractive to bees.
EU governments failed last month 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 a compromise.
"Decisions on neonicotinoids must be based on sound scientific evidence," said a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) spokesman.
"That's why we want the European Commission to agree to our suggestion for a major new field study to get the best, most up-to-date evidence. That will allow informed decision-making, rather than rushing into a knee-jerk ban based on inconclusive studies," he added.
Syngenta and Bayer, the top producers of the pesticides blamed for a sharp fall in bee populations around the world, proposed a plan last week to support bee health to try to forestall a European Union ban.
Their plan includes the planting of more flowering margins around fields to provide bee habitats as well as monitoring to detect the neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for their decline and more research into the impact of parasites and viruses.
editing by Stephen Addison