Neonicotinoid insecticides: the precautionary principle should be observed

28 Apr

Neonicotinoid insecticides have been linked to serious declines in bee numbers and loss of food crop pollination.

spraying neonicotinoidsDamian Carrington reports secret lobbying in this week’s Observer, by British ministers and chemical companies, against the proposed European ban on these substances:

“In a letter released to the Observer under freedom of information rules, the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, told the chemicals company Syngenta last week that he was “extremely disappointed” by the European Commission’s proposed ban. He said that “the UK has been very active” in opposing it and “our efforts will continue and intensify in the coming days”.

“Chemical companies, which make billions from the products, have also lobbied hard, with Syngenta even threatening to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing a report that found the pesticides posed an unacceptable risk to bees,  according to documents seen by the Observer . . .

“However, the private lobbying began much earlier with a series of letters, obtained by Corporate Europe Observatory sent to commissioners in the summer of 2012, after France had proposed a unilateral ban. One Syngenta executive, mentioning in passing his recent lunch with Barack Obama, claimed that “a small group of activists and hobby bee-keepers” were behind that campaign for a ban. Another letter claims, without citing evidence, that the production of key crops would fall by ‘up to 40%’ “.  efsa neonicotinoids

In their 2012 report (above) the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) found that:

  • When honeybees were exposed in field to dust from a conventional seeder, lethal effects were observed.
  • When learning and memory abilities were tested on bees exposed to contaminated dust emitted from unmodified and modified machines, significant effects were observed (Ed: one being that bees could not find their way back to the hive, so an eventually lethal situation?)
  • However, within this project some potential concerns such as lethal effects on bees exposed to dust, sub-lethal effects and interactions between clothianidin and pathogens were identified suggesting that a change in the assessment of the substances thiamethoxam, clothianidin, imidacloprid and fipronil as regards their effects on bees might be required.

However EFSA’s 2013 press release appears to have left its options open: “because the final guidance document for the risk assessment of plant protection products and bees is still under development, there is a high level of uncertainty in the latest evaluations”.


When in doubt, apply the precautionary principle . . .



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