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."

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit