The precautionary principle at work: The case of neonicotinoids and the health of bees

Alan Patterson*, Craig McLean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


In recent years, scientists have noted a decline in the health of bee populations. Whereas a whole host of possible causes have been identified, it is the use of pesticides in agriculture—specifically the use of neonicotinoids—that has warranted some investigation. The scientific evidence of their impact on the health of bees remains debated. This article examines how the UK Government has responded to the decline in bee populations and the apparent link to neonicotinoids. While notionally committed to deploying the Precautionary Principle in such instances, the government has tended to err more on ‘sound science’ as a policymaking tool. Early evidence indicates that the government used the latter initially but has become more amenable to utilising a precautionary approach recently. Whether this can be attributed to an embrace of the Precautionary Principle, or simply a change caused by the installation of a new Secretary of State for the Environment, is open to interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-449
Number of pages9
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number3
Early online date26 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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