Pesticide risks to bee decline identified
16 January 2013
Reacting to news today [Wednesday 16 January 2013] that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientists have identified a number of risks posed to bees by three neonicotinoid insecticides, Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
"The clear link between neonicotinoid pesticides and declining bee health must sting the Government into action - we can't afford to dither when it comes to protecting these key pollinators.
"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.
"Tens of thousands of people are backing our call for a National Bee Action Plan - it's time the Government listened."
Notes to editors:
1. Friends of the Earth's The Bee Cause campaign is supporting individuals to make change in their gardens and communities to help bees, and asking the Prime Minister to commit to a National Bee Action Plan. To support the call to David Cameron and find out what else you can do to help bees, visit The Bee Cause webpage www.foe.co.uk/bees.
2. EFSA identifies risks to bees from neonicotinoids: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/130116.htm?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=infocus&utm_campaign=beehealth
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a risk assessment for honey bees for the active ingredients of three neonicotinoid pesticides, imidacloprid (first approved for UK use in 1993), thiamethoxam (2006), and clothianidin (2002) and concluded that use of all three is unacceptable on crops attractive to honey bees, including oil seed rape. The assessments were carried out in association with scientists from EU Member States.
EFSA highlighted numerous gaps in data about the safety of all three chemical treatments and that as limited information was available for pollinating insects other than honey bees, their risk assessment was only for the threat posed to honey bees, not other bees and pollinators. This further underlines the admission in 2012 by the UK Government that the way chemicals are tested is not robust because products are only tested on honey bees, and not wild bumble and solitary bees.
3. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is carrying out an inquiry into insects and insecticides. At these hearings the neonicotinoid companies have again insisted their products are safe in line with their dismissal of a link between the decline in bee species and neonicotinoids.
For example Dr Bushell of Syngenta gave evidence to the EAC that "We believe that the body of evidence that supports safe use of neonicotinoids is very compelling. These products have been on the market for many years and the decline in bee population is due to other factors. That is what our overwhelming assessment of the date shows."
Further, in August 2012 Syngenta's Dr Phil Botham wrote to The Independent that: "Cruiser OSR has been used on several million hectares of oil seed rape in Europe over the last 10 years without any damage to bees. Cruiser OSR is one of the most advanced crop protection technologies available targeting only those pests which damage the oil seed rape crop... The world-wide decline in bee populations is a genuine cause for concern but there is no agreement on its causes. Given the global nature of the problem, the objectively assessed facts point away from plant protection products being the dominant causal factor." http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters/pesticides-and-bee-health-8005519.html
4. The Government has funded valuable research into non-chemical alternatives for farmers to use, including on oil seed rape, but these, including those shown to be effective, are not yet widely available for use by farmers. (Defra written evidence to the EAC). The Government must set out how it will support farmers to reduce overall dependence on chemicals in its overdue National Pesticides Action Plan.
5. Friends of the Earth research, published last year, found it would cost the UK at least an extra £1.8billion every year to hand-pollinate crops without bees. To read a briefing on the report, visit http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/bees_report_briefing.pdf. To read the full report visit http://www.foe.co.uk/beesreport.
6. In a report for Friends of the Earth bee experts at the University of Reading warned that pesticide use had risen by 6.5% between 2005 and 2010 and that more insecticide treatments tend to be applied to bee pollinated crops http://www.foe.co.uk/beesreport
7. 125 MPs joined Friends of the Earth campaigners in Westminster yesterday to show their support for action to reverse dwindling bee numbers.
If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.
Published by Friends of the Earth Trust
Last modified: Jan 2013