10th March 2011
Buglife and other environmental charities are very concerned that Government inaction means that controversial neonicotinoid pesticides are continuing to damage bees and other wildlife; this is despite a newly released Government report claiming that field studies show “no gross effects” on Honeybees.
There is a growing pile of independent, published scientific evidence of damage to bees and other pollinators from these pesticides.In contrast the key field studies that the Government report relies on were funded by the pesticide company, have not been published and have not been subject to open examination.
Matt Shardlow, Buglife Chief Executive said “We welcome the publication of this report, for the first time it is clear what evidence the Government has been relying on to license the use of these potentially environmentally destructive chemicals,”
“However, the release of this Government report has not put us at ease.It focuses almost entirely on Honeybees, and while the health of domestic bees is important, more than 90% of pollination is done by wild bees, hoverflies, moths and other insects."
"There is nothing in the report that leads to a conclusion that the chemicals are safe for the environment.Indeed, one study quoted showed even bigger impacts on solitary bees than on Honeybees.”
The report was written by government scientists in response to a report on neonicotinoid pesticides published by Buglife in 2009. The Goverment report was released as a result of an information request by Buglife. The Government report evaluates the peer reviewed, published, independent laboratory studies in great detail, but uses this only to conclude that there is cause for concern and that field studies should be done.However, there are significant question marks about the scientific validity of the unpublished field studies, most of which were funded by the pesticide manufacturer and are very short in duration (often only three days); these studies are not critically reviewed in the Government report.
A 2010 review of Neonicotinoid pesticide research published by scientists at Exeter University showed that even published field studies were not thorough enough to be able to detect a massive 20% decline in the performance of Honeybees.
Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association said "It is beyond belief that in the face of a growing international consensus that neonicotinoids are a serious threat to bumble bees, honeybees and other pollinating insects, UK pesticide regulators seem to be basing their contrarian views on no serious scientific evidence”
“They looked at no independent field studies, and none that take a really long-term view which would tell us the impact of the long-term exposure to repeated small doses of poison that is increasingly the fate of pollinators.”
Buglife is working with the Chemical Regulation Directorate to better understand which of the listed field studies provide the best evidence that the environmental damage predicted from the laboratory studies does not occur in the field.
A letter also released that was sent from the Advisory Committee on Pesticides to the Chemical Regulation Directorate on 11 December 2009 sets out seven additional concerns about the tests used to judge if pesticides are likely to damage the environment, particularly if the effects are sub-lethal and chronic.These concerns about the rigor of the process were not mentioned by the Minister and have not yet been addressed.
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