US Leak Reignites Pesticide Fears for UK Bees
A leaked US government memo has reignited concerns raised in a 2009 scientific report by UK charity Buglife.
Updated 18 January 2011
In a leaked memo US government scientists warned that bees and other non-target invertebrates are at risk from a neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin and that tests in the approval process are unable to detect its environmental damage. This has reignited concerns raised in a 2009 scientific report by Buglife. Therefore we are asking people to please write to their MP to request a suspension and a review of neonicotinoid pesticides in the UK; and to sign on to the neonicotinoid Early Day Motion. For more information on writing to your MP click here to download a draft letter or click here to veiw the letter on a webpage. See below for more information on the leaked memo and neonicotinoids.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists flagged up the risks to honey-bees and aquatic insects that would result if the US Government approved the request from Bayer to expand the use of the neonicotinoid clothianidin to include cotton and mustard.
Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and other non-target insects, the biggest concerns are that, being systemic they end up in the pollen and nectar in the flowers of treated crops, and hence could poison pollinators, and that being persistent and mobile they could wash into streams, ponds and rivers and destroy aquatic life.
Oil seed rape © Roger Key
Commonly treated with neonicotnoid
In the leaked memo the EPA scientists state that “information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects” and they criticise existing approvals research as deficient and request additional tests “for additional chronic testing on bee hive activity (e.g., effects to queen, larvae, etc.)”. This reflects the conclusions of the 2009 Buglife report that highlighted inadequate testing in the European approvals process and asked the UK Government to: review existing neonicotinoid and fipronil products authorised for outdoor use, with a precautionary suspension of products until the reviews are completed.
To-date the UK Government has failed to act on these specific asks, despite the growing body of scientific evidence.A recent scientific paper stressed the high toxicity of neonicotinoids at very low concentrations, noting that these low-level, long-term effects would not be detected by current test methods for pesticides.
The timing is bad for the UK Government as last week its response to the new EU Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides was accused of being weak, ‘business friendly’ and of failing to take the opportunity to provide improved protection to the public or the environment.