The final nail in the coffin for neonicotinoids? PDF Print E-mail

picture of EU flagMore evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to large scale bee declines has been published adding more weight to PAN UK's call for a permanent ban on the use of all neonicotinoids in the UK.


A new report examining the effects neonicotinoid pesticides on wild bee populations in England was published on 16th August in the journal Nature. The study, led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, clearly shows that wild bee populations have suffered large scale and long term declines since the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides. The report itself is based on a correlational study looking to see if there are significant relationships between data on wild bee populations and incidence and data on oilseed rape acreages and neonicotinoid treatment over an 18 year period before and after the introduction of neonicotinoids to the UK (1994-2011). While this does not provide absolute proof, if that were even possible, it does provide an extremely convincing association that adds significantly to the already large body of scientific evidence showing that neonicotinoids cause harm to wild bees and other pollinator species.

The results are shocking. The analysis estimates that neonicotinoid exposure alone is responsible for greater than 20% of local population losses for five species of wild bees, and greater than 10% for 24 species – in other words, a more than 10% decline in distribution for 40% of England’s wild bee species. The report is also clear that the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments on oil seed rape (OSR) crops are the source of the problem. Whilst many in the pro-neonicotinoid camp have argued that OSR crops provide excellent forage for bees this report suggests that it is actually a poisoned chalice. The report shows that bees feeding on OSR crops declined more as a result of their exposure to neonicotinoids than didn’t, thus negating any positive benefit they might have gained from feeding on OSR.

As PAN UK has long maintained, and the report confirms, bee declines are not being driven solely by the use of pesticides and there are other factors including habitat loss involved. However, it does highlight the significant contribution that the use of neonicotinoids is having on serious population declines.

While evidence ofthe harm caused by neonicotinoids is mounting, the evidence of advantages of their use is hard to find. We have seen no devastating yield losses in the UK OSR crop since the EU introduced a ban on the use of three neonicotinoids in 2014. And in fact there has been no increase in OSR yields since the adoption and widespread use of neonicotinoids began in 2002. It begs the question why are we using them at all?

This is an important report that cannot, and should not, be overlooked. It adds considerable weight to the evidence against neonicotinoids. The new Defra Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, must pay attention to the science and not cave in to the vested interests in the NFU and pesticides lobby.

Likewise, PAN UK is confident that this report will have a big impact at the EU level when it comes time to make a decision on the current ban on some neonicotinoids. PAN UKcontinues to call for a complete ban on the use of all neonicotinoids. These pernicious chemicals have no place in a modern, sustainable, environmentally friendly agricultural system that the UK should be working toward.

 

 
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