Defra has launched a consultation on the use of genetic technologies. It differentiates between sysgenics or gene editing and transgenics, the introduction of genetic material from another organism. In the EU, genetic editing is classed by the European Court as being as being equivalent to transgenics and is thus prohibited. Ministers have said that they would like to see gene editing adopted, along with the potential relaxation along with the regulations covering transgenics. The deadline for submission is 17th March.
Sugar Beet Derogation
A temporary lifting of the ban on neonicotinoid seed dressing has been allowed for the planting of sugar beet this coming season. Yields this year have been devastated by virus yellows spread by the peach/ potato aphid, down by 50% in many cases, and insecticide is the only way to control it. Sugar beet is a biennial crop, flowering in the second year but is harvested in the first year before flowering can take place. The risk to bees and other pollinators is therefore thought to be acceptably low, especially as other conditions stipulate the control of flowering plants within the crop, that no flowering crop can be sown for 22 months and no oilseed rape for 32 months. Derogations have also been approved in France, Belgium, Spain and Poland.
Cotswold Water Park
The Cotswold Water Park has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in its entirety covering 40 square miles and 177 lakes across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. The lakes were created by the extraction of limestone gravel from the 1970’s. Ten lakes were designated as an SSI in 1994 for their aquatic plant life but the whole park has now become of national importance for its bird and plant populations. It is also an important centre for holiday homes, water sports, fishing and walking showing that nature can co-exist with human recreation.
Big Farmland Bird Count
The Big Farmland Bird Count will take place for the 8th successive year from 5th to 14th February. Farmers, landowners and gamekeepers are encouraged to spend about thirty minutes recording the species and the number seen on one particular area of the farm, preferably at first light when birds are most active. Last year more than 1500 farmers took part across the UK, the most since it was launched in 2014 by the Game Wildlife & Conservation Trust and more that 120 bird species were recorded. Having been run for eight years, the data collected can show trends as well as a single snapshot of bird populations and ranges.