Death knell for nerve agent pesticides in move to save bees

European Food Safety Authority states that neonicotinoid use acceptable 'only…on crops not attractive to honey bees'

A A A

European safety regulators have finally moved against nerve-agent insecticides blamed for a worldwide decline in bee populations, significantly increasing pressure for a UK ban on the chemicals.

In a report published today, the European Food Safety Authority stated for the first time that neonicotinoid use was acceptable, “only…on crops not attractive to honey bees” and that the chemicals pose “a number of risks” to bee health.

The findings add to a growing body of scientific evidence linking the use of neonicotinoid chemicals in agriculture with sharp falls in populations of bees and other pollinators.

Yesterday Defra, which has so far been reluctant to legislate on the insecticide threat to bees, said that it was awaiting the results of its own “extensive research”, which will be considered by the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides.

“If it is concluded that restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids are necessary, they will be brought in,” a Defra spokesman said.

Friends of the Earth called for the Government to “urgently remove” the named chemicals – clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid – from sale in the UK

“We can’t afford to dither when it comes to protecting these key pollinators,” said director Andy Atkins, director of Friends of the Earth. “Ministers must urgently remove these dangerous chemicals from sale, overhaul inadequate pesticide safety tests and ensure farmers have access to safe, effective alternatives to enable them to produce food without harming our bees.”

However, manufacturers were quick to downplay the significance of the EFSA report and claimed that banning the chemicals would have dire consequences for the farming industry.

Bayer, which makes the world’s most widely-used insecticide imidacloprid, warned against “over-interpretation of the precautionary principle” and said “multiple factors” were behind bee colony losses.

In a paper published a day before the EFSA report, the agrichemical industry claimed that banning neonicotinoids could cost the farming industry £620m in lost food production.

The report, by the EU think tank the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, and funded by Bayer and Syngenta, which makes the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam, also suggested one million jobs would be lost and the price of food would go up.

Mike Bushell, Principal Scientific Advisor at Syngenta said the EFSA study “focused on highly theoretical risks to bees.”

Dr Chris Hartfield, horticulture advisor to The National Farmers Union said that hasty changes to UK regulations might “do nothing to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop production”, but conceded that “improving science” was enabling lawmakers to “identify gaps in current regulatory processes.”

The EFSA report concluded that, due to risk of exposure from pollen and nectar, the use of the three neonicotinoid chemicals was unacceptable on crops attractive to honey bees. The use of the insecticides on crops planted in greenhouses also posed a risk to bees by exposure by dust, the report said.

The report stopped short of recommending a ban on the chemicals but urged further investigation into the risks, particularly to other pollinators such as bumble bees, butterflies and moths, pointing out that the findings only looked at the impact on honey bees.

Bans on some neonicotinoid products have already been introduced in France, Germany and Slovenia.

Life and Style
love + sex
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all