Calderdale Countryfile


Calderdale

The people, places and stories making news in the British countryside. Matt Baker looks at a food revolution in Todmorden and Tom Heap reports on Britain's bees.


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Transcript


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'The humble bee is in decline.

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'According to some, their numbers have fallen by half in the UK

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'since the 1980s.

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'And it's not just a sad loss for our gardens.

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'It's a potential disaster for British agriculture

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'and further afield, too.'

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So, right across the world, scientists have been searching

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for the cause of their mysterious decline.

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And in Europe they think they might have found a culprit.

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'The European Commission believes the blame lies

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'with some of the world's most widely-used agricultural pesticides,

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'neonicotinoids.

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'It wants to ban them from 1st July.'

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But not everyone is convinced

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and Britain is now one of a number of countries resisting a ban,

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not least because of its impact on farming.

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'I've come to Kent to meet farmer Andy Barr.

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'Like many, his crop is already suffering a slow start,

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'thanks to the cold spring weather.'

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It's not quite what you'd expect for mid-April, is it?

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No, it's horrible.

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It's really having an effect on these oilseed rape plants.

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'Rather than spraying his fields,

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'Andy uses seeds treated with neonicotinoids.

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'But he's worried that a ban would make a bad year even worse.'

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You had me bring this bag of seed with us in order to show

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how the neonicotinoids work, but talk me through it.

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-What are the stages?

-Right, well this is the seed we would plant

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in the autumn, basically.

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Each one of those seeds will produce one plant.

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-This seed is already treated with the neonicotinoids?

-It is.

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Do you think there could be something in there, hidden,

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that's killing our bees? Because that's what's being suggested.

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To me, as a farmer,

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there is a very tiny amount of neonicotinoid on there.

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That tiny seed, one of them, grows into a plant taller than me

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and about this wide.

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And I plant it one August and it's flowering in the next May.

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Is there enough there, in real field situation,

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to have an effect on the bees?

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At the moment, the scientists don't have an answer for me.

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No-one has said there is a definitive,

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real field situation effect on bees.

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So, what did you do before you had neonicotinoids?

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Before we had them, we had to come through very soon after planting,

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when the plants were very small,

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and spray the whole field two or three times.

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And did you feel that had other collateral damage?

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That's why I was so pleased when they came along.

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I felt it was a good thing cos we weren't spraying everything,

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we were just treating the seed and the plants.

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So it was much more targeted.

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'Neonicotinoids protect around a third of our crops

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'from being eaten by insects.

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'It's claimed banning them would leave farmers relying

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'on less efficient methods that would cost them millions.

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'But farmers need bees, too.

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'They play a vital role in pollinating many crops,

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'like oilseed rape. 'Losing them would slash yields.

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'So, to keep a healthy supply on Andy's farm,

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'he leaves space for wild flowers and even has his own beekeeper.'

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So, if I can just take the top off there.

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And again.

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'Alistair Wormsley has kept hives here for five years.

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'I'm helping him prepare for the warmer weather.'

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Because it's so cold, are the bees pretty unlikely to venture out?

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I would think the bees are unlikely to venture out

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at much below eight degrees centigrade.

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'It seems we spoke too soon.'

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The bees are basically wild animals, so even when we expect them

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to do one thing and stay in the snow,

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they've actually decided to come out.

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So I'll leave Alistair there with his veil to do the work.

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'Those supporting a ban on neonicotinoids

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'claim they disorientate bees.

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'So much so that many never find their way home.

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'Alistair says he's seen evidence of that confusion for himself.'

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The symptoms were very much like the bees were being given Alzheimer's.

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They were, if you like...

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There was 30-40,000 bees in the colony one week, going strong.

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You come back the next week,

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and there'll be a couple of hundred bees there with the queen

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and all the working bees had deserted.

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'Yet, despite seeing some of the symptoms,

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'Alistair says he's not seen enough to convince him yet

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'it's time to take drastic action.'

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-So, would you want to see a ban?

-No. No, no, no.

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What I want to see is the work done to prove the situation

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one way or the other.

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'The search for that proof is still going on and beekeepers,

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'farmers and even governments are all looking to the world of science

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'to give them a definitive answer.'

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Hundreds of scientists from right across the world

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are working on the great mystery of what's killing our bees

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and that includes at least a dozen projects from the UK.

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Hi, Chris, how's it going?

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'Dr Adam Vanbergen is from the Insect Pollinators Initiative,

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'which oversees nine UK research projects.'

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OK, I'll do the lights.

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See if we can just collect one to take a sample. Back towards me.

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'Like many other scientists, he's yet to be convinced

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'that neonicotinoids are such a menace

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'that they should be banned right now.'

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This lab here has actually shown some effect of neonicotinoids

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-on bees' brains, so is it time for a ban?

-Yeah, I think...

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Well, it's interesting you say that.

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The results coming out of this lab and others are extremely concerning.

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They're showing impacts on the brain function.

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What I think we need to do is to increase

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the complexity of those experiments,

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to mimic what goes on in the real world

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and perhaps also carry out field experiments in the real world too.

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Shouldn't we apply the precautionary principal here?

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We're talking about something as vital and sensitive as bees.

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A lot of people think there's a single smoking gun

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with respect to pollinator decline,

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but the reality is that pollinators and other biodiversities

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have been declining over a much longer period of time

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and there is a whole suite of factors threatening them,

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including the intensification of the landscape,

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which leads to loss of resources,

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so I think we need to consider things in a much more holistic way,

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so I'm a bit concerned about treating pesticides

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as a single issue that we need to react suddenly upon.

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With many scientists, farmers and even beekeepers

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saying a ban is premature, the UK government has been trying

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to block attempts to get neonicotinoids restricted.

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But many on the European mainland, including the European Commission,

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are convinced that a ban is the way forward.

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So, do they know something that we don't?

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Well, it's all based on this 58-page report

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prepared for the European Commission.

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So does this contain the definitive proof

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that neonicotinoids are killing our bees?

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I'll be taking a closer look later in the programme.

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Lying in the heart of Calderdale is Todmorden,

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a small town with big ambitions.

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It straddles the ancient border between Yorkshire and Lancashire.

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And what's happened in this town is having repercussions

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right across the world.

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Here, they're bringing the countryside

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into the heart of the town by growing food in public places.

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It's part of a movement known as Incredible Edible.

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Pam Warhurst is the powerhouse behind it.

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So, Pam, what's the idea behind this? What is the goal?

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The goal is to help people be more self-reliant,

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the goal is to get people thinking of themselves, about their future,

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and to use food as the driving force,

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so you start with what we call propaganda gardens.

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All over the town, there's spaces

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where you could grow food, you just don't see them.

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Very public - railway station, front of the police station,

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along the towpath here, where people can see what can grow.

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And they can taste it.

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Everything we plant in these propaganda gardens is food for free.

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So everybody who lives here is entitled

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-to come down to the towpath and harvest?

-Absolutely.

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It starts conversations and once you do that,

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it becomes part of your life,

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so you want to grown more of your own food in your own garden,

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you want to go to your market and support more local growers

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and your farmers, you want to get your kids

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learning how to grow and process food.

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All this because you've started to plant propaganda gardens

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and just shown people what local food looks like.

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This seed of an idea began just six years ago and now it's spread

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to more than 30 towns across the UK and even around the world.

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There's not a continent that isn't doing Incredible Edible.

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Isn't that totally fantastic?

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Who'd have thought ordinary people saying, "I want a bit of that,

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"let's do it, we'll never stop it,

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"we'll be doing this till the day we die,

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"and there's nothing better in the world that we'd rather do."

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Even at the school, they've caught the passion

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for producing their own food.

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They've got a remarkable way of growing fruit and veg indoors

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and I hear it involves fish.

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What's happening here could revolutionise

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the local schools' food supply.

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-Now then, Steve, how are you?

-Hello, Matt. I'm fine, thank you.

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Right then, sir, as we're in a watery classroom,

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you'd better give me a lesson. What's going on here?

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-Welcome to the world of aquaponics...

-Thank you!

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..where fish feed vegetables. So do you want to find out how that works?

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-Yes, please, yes!

-We've got a little diagram over here.

-Over to the board.

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Very good. Right, OK.

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So, if you're paying attention, aquaponics is a system

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of three tanks with water flowing in between all of them.

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So, in the first tank, we have fish.

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Fish do what comes naturally - they poo and they pee.

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The ammonia from the fish poo and pee

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goes into the tank with the bacteria in it

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where the ammonia is changed into nitrates

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by the action of friendly bacteria.

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So the nitrates are then pumped

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into the tank where the vegetables are growing

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and vegetables need nitrates to grow

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and then the water goes back into the fish tank

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and the whole process starts again.

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-Feeding time at the zoo!

-Yeah!

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So we've got a big tank here full of 400 goldfish

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and we know all their names, Matt.

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-Really?!

-Yeah, Fred 1, Fred 2, Fred 3...

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MATT LAUGHS

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So what's the connection between this project and Incredible Edible?

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This project grew out of Incredible Edible

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and its aim is to produce fish and vegetables for the local schools,

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so we'll be feeding the school kiddies.

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We're learning on goldfish and then we will move onto edible carp.

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How many fish do you actually need for a large quantity of vegetables?

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That's where the maths comes in and it helps with the kiddies,

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so what it is, is there's a ratio - one kilogram of fish waste

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produces sufficient poo and pee

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to feed three square metres of vegetables.

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-So this is the floating vegetable patch?

-Absolutely, Matt.

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Do you want to have a look here?

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If you move one of the floating beds down slightly, you can see

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the water underneath and the roots of the vegetables go into the water.

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-You can see this from the garlic.

-Oh, my word!

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There's no soil then?

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It's amazing, there is no soil whatsoever in this whole process.

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Is it better than growing in soil?

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Because we can control all the temperatures and the nutrients,

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we can produce all year round.

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What we're finding at the moment

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is some plants are growing quite quickly.

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This mint, for instance, has come up a centimetre a day.

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And I can only attribute that to the fact

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that there's a huge amount of nitrates in this water.

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I guess the proof is in the pudding. Is it all right to eat it?

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Well, you've got a big table here in front of you.

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-What would you recommend?

-Well, what shall we have a look at?

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There's a bit of lettuce here, Matt. Go for that? Aquaponic lettuce.

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That's a first.

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Well...

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-It tastes lovely, yeah.

-Good man.

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I'm convinced, absolutely.

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I tell you what, you lot down there, you've done some good work!

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It's lovely, this lettuce.

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The hills of Calderdale - most are more than 1,300 feet high,

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so they catch the prevailing weather.

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Often, that's rain, more recently, snow.

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But this landscape also has a more unexpected look -

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water, water everywhere.

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It's believed that this area has the highest concentration

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of reservoirs in the UK.

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Now, if you look at this satellite image, you can see you can see why.

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It's absolutely peppered with blue dots and those dots are reservoirs.

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But why build so many just here?

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I'm meeting up with Robin Gray to find out.

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It's all down to the Industrial Revolution.

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You had a lot of cotton mills.

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In fact, you could say that Manchester was the powerhouse

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of the Industrial Revolution and one of the main ingredients was water.

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You had mill owners - they wanted water.

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You had the canals - they needed water for transportation.

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But also, drinking water.

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You've got to remember, in the 19th century,

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they described drinking water as "as black as ink".

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So without this water,

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that Industrial Revolution might not have happened?

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Everyone knows about coal, but it was actually water that was

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the vital ingredient that powered the Industrial Revolution.

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Many of those reservoirs still remain.

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This is one of them, now known as Hollingworth Lake,

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built more than 200 years ago to supply the Rochdale canals.

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It might have been built for industry,

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but it was soon held in deep affection

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by the Victorian day-trippers

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who came here to enjoy paddle steamer rides

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and the rowing club.

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It became the Rochdale Riviera of its day -

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an escape from the grime of industry.

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Today, this lasting legacy of our industrial past is no lifeless relic.

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On the contrary, it's buzzing with activity.

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I've never tried windsurfing.

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I've always wanted to and apparently this is the perfect place to start.

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Instructor Alistair Pitman reckons he can get me surfing in no time,

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but first I need to learn a few of the basics on dry land.

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Right, Al, where do we start?

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I want you to get both knees up here,

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then I want you to reach around the mast

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and there should be an uphaul there, so if you grab hold of that

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with both hands, it'll help you balance when you stand up.

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So I want you to stand up

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and get your feet one either side of the mast.

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Then I want you to crouch down,

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reach as far as you can down that uphaul and then hand over hand,

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pull it up and then put your hands onto the mast.

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Hands onto the mast, OK.

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If you lean the sail towards the back of the boat,

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you'll find the boat turns one way.

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HELEN GIGGLES Sorry!

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And if you lean it towards the front of the boat,

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you'll find it turns the other way.

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OK, well, that seems straightforward enough. Shall we take it to water?

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-Yep, why not? I think we're good, I think we're ready.

-Yeah?

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'It's now or never.

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'I really hope I'm not in for a soaking.'

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-It is quite cold, isn't it?

-Just a little chilly.

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It's probably about minus seven with the wind chill,

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but the water temperature's about one degree.

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So we're just going to get you up into that sailing position.

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-So grab hold of your mast, remember?

-Oh, yeah, the mast.

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I'm practically signing up for the Olympics now, aren't I?

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-Oh, yes, definitely.

-Yeah.

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And you're off!

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That's it, Helen. Well done. Keep your front leg straight.

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Pull in with your back hand a little.

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Whoa!

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I'm not setting any world records just yet.

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Oh, I'm actually moving, aren't I?

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-Whoops!

-I'm on! I'm still on!

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Pull it back up.

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Whoa! There we go! There's a little gust!

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-Woo-hoo! I'm doing it, yeah?

-Yeah. Well done.

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'I can see why people get a kick out of this

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'and I'll definitely be back to give it another go.'

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You've done really well today.

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You've still got dry hair, which is impressive!

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Hollingworth Lake is easy to get to, so it's well used

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and well looked after, but how do the more remote reservoirs fare?

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Gaddings Dam is perched around 500 feet higher.

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It's a lung-burning hike up a steep hill,

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but I'm assured it's well worth it.

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-Hello, gang.

-Hiya.

-Hi.

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'There were plans to drain the reservoir,

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'but people here loved it so much, they clubbed together to buy it

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'and that means they have to keep an eye on it.'

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What is it about this place that's so special?

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Well, you'll have to see when we get up there, Helen,

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but it's got a unique quality.

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It's on nearly 1,200 feet elevation,

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it's a very popular spot with swimmers

0:17:200:17:23

and with people from the town coming up for picnics and so on.

0:17:230:17:27

It's a real wonderful place.

0:17:270:17:29

Toby, you keep sort of burying your neck into your coat. It is cold.

0:17:290:17:33

-But you've been up there. Is it worth the walk?

-Yeah.

-Definitely?

-Yeah.

0:17:330:17:37

-Can you remember coming up here as a little girl, Margaret?

-Yes, I do.

0:17:470:17:50

We just used to come up here all the time in the summer.

0:17:500:17:53

At that time there were a lot of mills in the valley,

0:17:530:17:55

so it was quite polluted.

0:17:550:17:57

Places like this were a way of getting away from the smoke.

0:17:570:18:00

Do you come up here to clear your head and gather your thoughts?

0:18:000:18:03

Definitely. It's a steep hill, but within a short period of time,

0:18:030:18:06

you're just on top of the world.

0:18:060:18:08

Wow!

0:18:150:18:16

-Oh, my word! That is a lot of water!

-It is a lot.

0:18:170:18:20

This doesn't feel like Northern England,

0:18:200:18:22

it feels a bit like...Russia when you look over there!

0:18:220:18:25

Hello, chaps.

0:18:290:18:30

This is part of the essential ongoing maintenance

0:18:300:18:33

that we have to go through to keep the dam walls in good shape.

0:18:330:18:36

They're lifting stones that have fallen down near the water's edge

0:18:360:18:40

to replace them along the top of the wall.

0:18:400:18:43

'As a final treat, Tim wants to share his favourite spot with me.'

0:18:430:18:47

Here we are, Helen, this is our beach.

0:18:490:18:52

I don't think I've ever sat on a beach surrounded by ice and snow.

0:18:520:18:55

It is stunning, though. I can see why people love it.

0:18:550:18:58

You're a world away from everyone and everything, aren't you, up here?

0:18:580:19:02

Oh, completely, completely.

0:19:020:19:03

We've always claimed it was the highest sandy beach in England

0:19:030:19:07

and nobody's challenged that yet.

0:19:070:19:09

If you came back here on a summer's day, you'd see people swimming,

0:19:090:19:12

you'd see people from Todmorden up here having picnics,

0:19:120:19:15

people walking their dogs around, it really is a playground for people.

0:19:150:19:19

I want to say that I'm disappointed

0:19:190:19:20

I haven't brought my swimming costume...

0:19:200:19:22

but that would be a complete lie! Cheers.

0:19:220:19:25

Now, as we heard earlier, Europe is on the verge of banning

0:19:260:19:30

pesticides vital to many British farmers

0:19:300:19:33

because they're being blamed for the dramatic decline of bees,

0:19:330:19:36

but are they doing too much too soon?

0:19:360:19:39

Here's Tom.

0:19:390:19:40

Earlier, we heard from a farmer, a scientist and even a beekeeper,

0:19:430:19:47

who were all currently against the ban,

0:19:470:19:51

but not everyone in the UK feels the same way.

0:19:510:19:54

Some British environmental groups,

0:19:560:19:58

including the RSPB and the Soil Association,

0:19:580:20:01

say evidence is mounting of a danger to bees.

0:20:010:20:04

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the charity Buglife wants action now.

0:20:040:20:09

How worried are you about the pesticides and the neonicotinoids?

0:20:090:20:13

We're really worried.

0:20:130:20:15

We've been doing a lot of work on neonicotinoids back in 2009

0:20:150:20:19

when we sort of found that there was

0:20:190:20:21

a lot of scientific research around at the time

0:20:210:20:23

which showed that there was an effect on neonics in pollinators.

0:20:230:20:27

A small amount of the chemical can affect in different ways,

0:20:270:20:30

so making honeybees forage less

0:20:300:20:33

or not return back to the hive because they get lost.

0:20:330:20:36

It's something that Buglife

0:20:360:20:38

have been campaigning for right from the start,

0:20:380:20:40

that we want the Government to put a ban in

0:20:400:20:42

because we're worried about it, the evidence is there.

0:20:420:20:45

But how strong is that evidence? I've been taking a closer look.

0:20:460:20:50

This is the document on which the European Commission

0:20:500:20:53

have based their opinion in favour of a ban,

0:20:530:20:56

but when you look inside, the data is far from clear-cut.

0:20:560:21:00

Where they've got an R in a column,

0:21:000:21:02

it shows there has been a risk identified, but where there's an X,

0:21:020:21:06

they're not so sure, or as they put it, "assessment not finalised".

0:21:060:21:11

Now, there are a couple of columns with Rs, but all the rest...Xs.

0:21:110:21:16

Basically, we still lack definitive proof

0:21:160:21:20

and the uncertainty over the level of risk has caused mixed reactions.

0:21:200:21:24

So, while many MPs support a ban on neonicotinoids,

0:21:240:21:28

the British Government still thinks we need more evidence.

0:21:280:21:32

People are looking to science for answers,

0:21:320:21:34

but even there, the experts can't agree.

0:21:340:21:37

We're basically measuring everything we can measure about these nests -

0:21:380:21:42

how many new bees they've produced...

0:21:420:21:44

'At Stirling University, there's yet another research project,

0:21:440:21:48

'this time on the effects of neonicotinoids on bumblebees.'

0:21:480:21:52

So these nests have been variously

0:21:520:21:55

exposed or not exposed to neonicotinoids.

0:21:550:21:58

'Professor David Goulson is looking for a link

0:21:580:22:01

'between these pesticides and smaller, underdeveloped nests.

0:22:010:22:06

'He is in favour of a ban.'

0:22:060:22:08

When we were speaking to the farmer,

0:22:080:22:10

he said, "Look, this is a seed dressing,

0:22:100:22:12

"there's a small amount in the seed. By the time the plant's grown

0:22:120:22:16

"and the bees are feeding on the actual flower, it's infinitesimal,"

0:22:160:22:20

-but are you saying that's still enough to harm a bee?

-Well, if...

0:22:200:22:24

Yes, it is.

0:22:240:22:25

I mean, it wouldn't work as a pest-control strategy

0:22:250:22:27

if they weren't toxic at very low concentrations.

0:22:270:22:30

The evidence suggests that

0:22:300:22:32

if you feed those concentrations to bees,

0:22:320:22:35

you get measurable biological effects - they lay fewer eggs,

0:22:350:22:38

they get lost on the way home,

0:22:380:22:40

they're not so good at gathering food.

0:22:400:22:42

So the long and the short of it is, the concentrations in nectar

0:22:420:22:45

and pollen of flowering crops ARE enough to affect bees.

0:22:450:22:48

If we have evidence, but inconclusive evidence,

0:22:480:22:51

that these things seriously harm bees and other wildlife,

0:22:510:22:54

then we should stop using them until we've got that evidence,

0:22:540:22:58

until we can definitely say how much they're harming wildlife,

0:22:580:23:02

rather than just carry on blithely chucking them

0:23:020:23:04

around the countryside until some indefinite future date

0:23:040:23:08

where we may have acquired that evidence.

0:23:080:23:10

There is a growing consensus among scientists that neonicotinoids

0:23:120:23:17

have some effect on bee health,

0:23:170:23:19

but without conclusive evidence linking them to the decline of bees,

0:23:190:23:23

currently it's all about weighing up risk.

0:23:230:23:26

So is it better to be safe than sorry?

0:23:260:23:29

Or should we hold out for a clearer answer?

0:23:290:23:32

If science can help resolve this debate,

0:23:320:23:36

it will be doing a great service to the bees and possibly to farmers too.

0:23:360:23:40

Come on, in you go.

0:23:410:23:43

'In the meantime, the decision on banning neonicotinoids

0:23:430:23:46

'will have to be made without the luxury of absolute proof.'

0:23:460:23:51

Tom Heap reports on Britain's bees, Matt Baker looks at a food revolution in Todmorden and Helen Skelton looks at new uses for reservoirs built for mills.