Leading UK scientists sting back over criticism of research into bee deaths

 

Leading UK scientists accused the Government of abusing science today after the EU strongly criticised the research it used to justify its position on the nerve agent pesticides widely linked to declining bee populations.

Europe proposed banning the use of three pesticides after authoritative research from its safety authority concluded in January that they posed an unacceptable risk to bees, although a conclusive link has yet to be proved.

But the UK opposed the ban on the use of the pesticides in April, although its opposition was not enough to prevent a Europe-wide prohibition being implemented from December 1 this year.

The Government justified its decision to oppose the ban on research by its UK Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), which the EU said today was so weak that it did nothing to change its rationale for the ban.

It identified "several weaknesses" in the research, which "raised concerns" about how its authors "elaborated and interpreted the study results to reach their conclusions".

Furthermore, a source at the European Commission said that the organisation was "puzzled" at why Britain seemed so determined to vote against the ban on the basis of this research, amid mounting suggesting a link between the pesticides and declining bee populations that has been peer-reviewed - evaluated by experts in the same field to determine whether it is worthy of publication in a recognised journal.

"The Fera study is full of holes and is fatally flawed," said Professor David Goulson, a bee researcher at the University of Sussex who has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles on insects.  Unlike most of the research that has informed the debate on the nerve agent pesticides, known as neonicitinoids, the Fera research was not published in a peer-reviewed journal but rather on the internet.

"There have been hundreds of proper papers that have been through the peer-review process but for some reason Defra (the Environment Department) and Ian Boyd (it's chief scientific advisor) chose this. Instead of doing a study and putting it through peer review, they just put it on the Internet - that's not how science proceeds," Professor Goulson added.

Dr Christopher Connolly, a researcher on neonicitinoids at the University of Dundee, said: "This study is so seriously flawed it's meaningless and it is unfair of Defra to flaunt this research over other studies. I don't think it should be able to be presented to the public until it is peer-reviewed."

The EU's Food Safety Authority (EFSA) drew particular attention to the fact that the "control" bee nests in the experiment, which were supposed to function free of the nerve agent pesticides being examined, quickly became dosed with the same pesticides as the "treated" nests. This happened as the bees flew up to two miles away from their nest in search of pollen, taking it to fields where neonicotinoids were being used.

"If controls are no longer controls, any scientist knows that you need to start again. But this is impossible because neonicotinoids are everywhere," said Professor Goulson.

The government also favoured Fera's research over an indepth study by its cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) three weeks before the vote in April which strongly recommended the ban.

"The environment department seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees…..We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action," said Joan Walley, chair of the EAC.

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Farming and Agriculture (Defra) said: ""Fera's study was a robust scientific work. It focused on bumblebees because they are a pollinator not currently covered by the European risk-assessment. "All new studies are useful as they contribute to the body of evidence. At present the body of evidence does not show that neonicotinoids pose an unacceptable risk to bees."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London