Coop and PAN UK call for review of neonicotinoid risk assessment

Co-op sign

PAN UK and the Coop have today issued a press release highlighting a letter sent by the Coop calling on the new Defra Minister, Owen Paterson, to initiate an urgent independent review of the science underpinning the risk assessment for neonicotinoid pesticides in the UK. It also coincides with the publication of the new PAN UK bee and pesticide fact sheets and our 12 point call to action on pesticides and bees that we believe will help to protect bees and pollinators in the UK.

An open letter was sent to the Minister by the Coop outlining concerns and justifications for such a review. The letter to the Minister is available to download and the press release is reproduced below.

For more information on neonicotinoids and bees and other aspects of how pesticides are having a negative impact on pollinators in the UK please visit our bees website and download our bee and pesticide fact sheets: and please do write to the Minsiter to express your concerns about the effects of pesticides on bees and pollinators.

Press Release:


Bee-toxic pesticide concerns must be addressed, urge UK supermarkets

The Co-operative, supported by PAN UK has today written to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, calling for an immediate review of the science that underpins the UK risk assessment procedure for neonicotinoid pesticides.


PAN UK has alerted all major UK supermarkets to concerns over the safety of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids and by evidence that the current risk assessment regime ignores several potentially serious exposure routes for bees and other pollinating species to these harmful pesticides.


The Co-operative said in its letter “We are writing to you to ask for an urgent independent review of the science and regulatory assessment of neonicotinoid pesticides.... As a major food retailer serving over 14m customers each week, the health of bees and other pollinator species are of great concern to us, our growers and our customers.” It goes on to say “We believe that it is in the best interests of UK farmers, retailers and consumers to thoroughly investigate the growing research base on the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on insect pollinators and consider what this means for current UK approvals of neonicotinoid products.”


Chris Shearlock, Sustainable Development Manager at The Co-operative said:


“The research base into the impacts of neonicotinoids on bees has grown dramatically in recent years. It points to a problem with long-term, chronic exposure to field realistic levels of the pesticides – something which the current safety assessment process fails to address. We are calling for an urgent, independent review of the science given the importance of bees to our business as a major food retailer.”


Recent independent studies by the University of Stirling and the French National Agricultural Research Institute have highlighted the effects of low doses of neonicotinoids in pollen and nectar to bees.  In May 2012, a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, the official body in charge of assessing pesticide risks to pollinators) highlighted glaring gaps in the way that neonicotinoid effects on bees have been evaluated leaving a major question hanging over the fate of neonicotinoid products on the EU market


In June 2012, France suspended use of the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam as a seed treatment on oilseed rape, following research findings on its effects on honeybee homing behaviour. And in April 2012, the European Ombudsman opened an investigation into whether the European Commission has taken adequate measures to combat increased bee mortality in Europe.This was prompted by a complaint from Austria that the Commission has failed to take into account new scientific evidence in favour of restricting the use of neonicotinoids.


A series of fact sheets, published today by the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK), expose  the risks to bee and pollinator species from pesticides and look at what the failings of the risk assessment means for bee and pollinator health.  Dr Stephanie Williamson, Staff Scientist at PAN UK, said “There is more than enough evidence to show that the current system is failing to address serious concerns about risks to pollinators from neonicotinoid pesticides. PAN UK believes that the findings presented in the recently published independent scientific research, and highlighted in the PAN UK fact sheets is more than enough to warrant a precautionary approach from Defra.”


PAN UK has also today issued a 12 point call for action to protect bees from pesticides. Among these is a call on the government to conduct an immediate and urgent independent review of the latest science findings in the light of the EFSA conclusions, and to suspend authorisation of these pesticides until they are proven to be safe.  We urge the government and players in the food and farming sectors to provide practical support for UK farmers to move away from reliance on neonicotinoids and to adopt safer pest management strategies based on ecological science.  We also want an end to neonicotinoid use in the amenity, ornamentals and gardening sectors.


PAN UK Director, Dr. Keith Tyrell commented “PAN UK welcomes this initiative from the Co-operative and other retailers as we believe that a thorough independent review of the science would be a positive step forward in clarifying the situation in regard to bees and neonicotinoid pesticides. PAN UK hopes that the Minister will take heed of this very sensible request and act accordingly.” He continued, “It is clear that the concerns of NGOs, and the public are now being echoed by the retailers. The weight of evidence is growing and it is time for clarity, the UK Government needs to act on this as a matter of urgency.”


“Other European governments have acted to protect their bees and pollinators from neonics, but Defra continues to sit on its hands and do nothing even though the European Food Safety Authority  says that the risk assessment process for these pesticides is not fit for purpose.”




At the Co-operative Group

Dr. Keith Tyrell,

Director PAN UK

Tel: 07588 706224


Dave Smith

PR Manager Corporate

The Co-operative Group

Telephone: 0161 827 5614

Mobile: 07702 152771

Facsimile: 0161 833 1035

Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Nick Mole,

Policy Officer, PAN UK

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: 07906 892648


High resolution images are available on request. Please see contact sheet for images

Notes for Editors

·    Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) is the only UK charity focused solely on global pesticide issues

·     Neonicotinoids, especially seed treatments of imidacloprid and clothianidin on arable crops, have become of increasing concern to beekeepers and bee researchers in recent years with many of them suspecting that they may be connected to current bee declines. For more information on neonicotinoid pesticides please visit:

·     University of Stirling paper: Neonicotinoid pesticide reduces bumblebee colony growth and queen production.  Whitehorn, PR, O’Connor, S, Wackers, FL and Goulson, D. ( 2012) Science Express 10.1126/science.1215025

·     French National Agricultural Research Institute paper: A common pesticide decreases foraging success and survival in honey bees. Henry, M, Beguin, M, Requier, F, Rollin, O, Odoux, J-F, Aupinel, P, Aptel, J, Tchamitchian, S and Decourtye, A. (2012) Science Express 10.1126/science.1215039

·     European Food Safety Authority opinion on shortcomings of the risk assessment: Scientific Opinion on the science behind the development of a risk assessment of Plant Protection Products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees). (2012) European Food Safety Authority. EFSA Journal 10(5) 2668.Via:

·     A policy review by Reading University for Friends of the Earth has drawn public attention to the dire consequences that a loss of pollinator species would have on farming and food production in the UK and ultimately the UK economy: The decline of England’s bees. Policy review and recommendations.  Breeze, TD, Roberts, SPM and Potts, SG. (2012) University of Reading, UK, and Friends of the Earth. Via:

·     PAN UK fact sheets and a summary leaflet on Bee Declines and the Link with Pesticides are available to view and download at: and 

·    The fact sheets cover the following areas:

o   Different routes of pesticide exposure

o   Sub-lethal and chronic effects of neonicotinoids on bees and other pollinators

o   Serious shortcomings in assessing risks to pollinators

o   Different regulatory positions on neonicotinoids across Europe

o   Can restrictions on systemic insecticides restore bee health?

o   What could farmers do to rely less on neonicotinoids?

o   Opportunities for improving and expanding pollinator habitats

o   Action on neonicotinoid and other bee-toxic pesticides


PAN UK’s 12 point call for action on bee-toxic pesticides can be found at: and


13 Sept 2012


sorry. Thanks, but this is a charity site and upgrading from 1.5 is not going to be straightforward when they have no web dev budget, have a heart!