European regulator backs PAN’s position on flawed bumblebee study PDF Print E-mail

save the bees logoLast month, just before the EC decision to restrict the use of three neonicotinoids, PAN UK and other NGOs met with Environment Minister Lord de Mauley and Defra Chief Scientist Prof. Ian Boyd in a last ditch attempt to persuade the government to back an EU wide ban on bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides. Much of the argument in the meeting centred around the competing science – especially the “real life” effect of neonics in the field. It boiled down to a battle between scientific papers - “my paper is better than yours”. 


The biggest gun in Defra’s armoury was their field study of bumblebees. We argued for ages over it, with the NGOs in the room systematically identifying all of the flaws in the study and explaining clearly why it was bad science. Sadly, we weren’t able to persuade them and a few days later the UK government voted against a ban.


Yesterday, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) backed our assessment of the Defra report saying it was “not adequate to understand the effects of exposure of neonicotinoid residues on bumble bee colonies”.


It flagged up exactly the same weaknesses that we highlighted during our meeting, namely that:


  • The study looked at only one crop – oilseed rape – and two neonics (clothianidin and imidacloprid) and the the test sites and surrounding areas used in the study only reflect a small sample of agricultural conditions in the UK and cannot be considered representative of conditions in other parts of the EU
  • Two important routes of exposure – dust and guttation – were not addressed by the study.
  • And crucially, there were no suitable control bee colonies because the “control” site had been contaminated by neonics.


EFSA also complained that:


  • Field studies of bumble bees cannot be used to understand the risks to honey bees and other pollinators because of significant species differences.
  • Inconsistencies and contradictory statements regarding the objectives of the study.
  • Environmental conditions were varied across the three the test sites, which reduces the sensitivity of the study in detecting effects on colonies.


Most damning of all, EFSA questioned how the results had been interpreted and used to justify policy positions.  This suggests that results were cherry picked to justify a political decision and exposes the so called “science-based” approach to policy as a sham.  The really worrying question is left unasked: Why is Defra going to such lengths to protect the continued sale of neonics when they pose such a threat to pollinators and are not needed to protect crops?


5 June 2013

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!