As the Government considers the response to its plans for reducing pesticide use, RSPB Senior Policy Officer Steph Morren reflects on why this is necessary and how 6,000 actions have made sure nature's voice is heard.

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Pesticides National Action Plan 

At the end of February, the RSPB submitted a response to Defra’s consultation on the National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (NAP)Producing the NAP was previously a requirement for the UK, every five years, as a member state of the EU. Despite the UK having now left the EU, the UK Government has taken the opportunity to refresh the NAP as a standalone UK-wide document and aims to set out the government’s intended policies on pesticides for the next five years. 

Why was it important to respond 

Evidence is mounting for the detrimental impacts of pesticides on the environment and human health and, at the levels currently used, are representative of an unsustainable farming system. The NAP was an opportunity for the government to make meaningful changes. The draft NAP had some elements that we were really pleased with – in particular a commitment to set targets for reducing pesticide use, and an overall aim stating the importance of minimising risks and impact of pesticides to the environment, wildlife and human health. However there were other areas which were lacking in ambition and so responding to this consultation was an opportunity to show the government that people care about this issue and that they need to be much more ambitious in supporting farmers and other land managers to reduce their reliance on these chemicals. 

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What happened? 

Nearly 6,000 people took part in our action, which is nearly 6,000 emails to Defra all asking for the same things to be included in the NAP! The most important of these weredefending the commitment to an ambitious national pesticide reduction target; massively increased support and advice for farmers to use alternative ways of protecting their crops from pests, weeds and diseases; a phase out of pesticides in urban areas; and better clamping down on pesticides being used for wildlife crime. 

In addition to the RSPB’s action, a number of other charities set up actions and petitions, including a civil society pesticides collaboration spanning environment, health and farming, and many individuals responded directly to the consultation too. In total, Defra received a whopping 35,000 emails and 1,500 direct consultation responses! This far exceeded their expectations and so they are now working out how to best incorporate feedback into the final NAP.  

What next? 

We will be keeping a close eye on what happens next, and working hard to ensure that the government’s commitments are ambitious and that they genuinely result in changes that support farmers, and better protect people and the environment. 

Photo credit: Colin Wilkinson (