On the 13th May, we received a visit from Phil Bennion MEP, who came to our offices to talk about our campaigns and discuss his views on some of the key environmental issues that BFoE is camapaigning on

The meeting was a positive one, full of lively discussion, and Mr Bennion spoke with enthusiasm about his passion for decarbonisation and tackling air pollution.

Mr Bennion said he was in favour of government action on the carbon footprint of vehicles, and has been working with vehicle manufacturers on lorries that have a shape that are less likely to create fatal crashes/accidents and are better for fuel consumption. In addition, Mr Bennion fully supports action on air quality and is likely to support the tightening of air quality regulations in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations. At the EU level, Mr Bennion has worked on pollution from vehicle exhausts and earlier this week received a Clean Air Award for his work on tail-pipe tests.

Despite his belief that the UK can meet the EU’s 2020 targets on air quality if sufficient time and resources are dedicated towards this, Mr Bennion expressed serious doubts about the UK’s ability to meet the 2015 targets on air quality.

On the subject of low emission zones, Mr Bennion made some interesting points. Overall he is in favour of low emission zones as long as they are not prohibitive to occasional visitors to the city, like rural-dwellers, for example; and is not against charging zones, such as congestion charge zones.·

Mr Bennion was outspoken on the issue of neonicotinoids. He feels there is not sufficient quality research to demonstrate that the effects of neonicotinds on bees is such that it warrants a ban; calling the ban “unscientific.”·He believes that there needs to be more research into the circumstances in which neonicotinoids harm bees and work towards making sure those circumstances do not exist, as opposed to banning substances outright. He believes that we have a clumsy approach to banning pesticides, and banning chemicals is not practical when they are beneficial/not proven to be dangerous- possibly threatening world food supply. He didn’t seem to say that the ban would be foreshortened, but did at least agree that now we have it, it should be used to conduct proper research.

On issues of waste and recycling, Mr Bennion called for·more research efforts into finding better ways of recycling so that the recycling is good quality (e.g. not just low-grade recycling), rather than simply enough to meet targets

Scientifically, Mr Bennion is pro-GMO, and feels that now we have extensive gene-maps, we can make sure there are no problems with GMO. However, Mr Bennion did note that there can be a problem with GMO’s, but there is no scientific problem with GMO’s being generically problematic; ultimately claiming that objections to GMO’s are not scientifically based.

Mr Bennion also noted that nobody has tested whether Monsanto’s bundle of seed and sale of produce will stand up to European law and suggests a court case may be necessary to determine whether bundling is consistent with European law, as it is consistent with European law not to allow such a contract. In most sectors bundling is considered to be anti-competitive and Mr Bennion expressed the belief that anti-competitive bundling should be illegal in this case if it is not already.

Overall we felt it was a positive meeting. Mr Bennion said he is willing to demonstrate support for actions in favour of the environment as long as there is significant research and a scientific basis for the findings, and was interested to work with us in the future on areas we where agree.