The Drugs (Neonicotinoids) Don’t Work 5

Monday 20th October 2014

New scientific evidence from the US Government further emphasises that Neonicotinoids simply do not improve crop yields.  While in the UK the NFU and friends continue to try, using anecdotes and propaganda, to prove that the partial ban is affecting crop yields.

In previous blogs (particularly here and here, but also here and here) I have set out that neonicotinoid sales success can stem from fear, the need for an insurance policy and the system of commission based selling – pesticides do not have to work to sell well.

Now new evidence has come to light from, of all places, the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA.  This is a body that has been widely seen as failing to respond to the threat to bees and other wildlife posed by neonic insecticides.

Now however a review of the use of neonic insecticides on soy bean crops has concluded that they provide ‘negligible’ benefit to crop yields and are indeed no more effective than undertaking no insect control at all!

As well as being generally ineffective the report concludes that the use is prophylactic – as such it is incompatible with sensible pesticide use.  Will this open up the way for the EPA to take action to protect pollination services?  Of course we do know that pollination by bees and other insects do improve crop yields!  In the EU the regulations first require that a pest control product is effective before it can be authorised for use.

Meanwhile back on this side of the pond the NFU and allies have been doing their best to scare everyone into thinking that the partial ban on Neonicotinoids has been a disaster for oil seed rape crops.

Matt Ridley (brother in-law of pro-neonicotinoid ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson) wrote in the Times “The loss of the rape crop this autumn is approaching 50 per cent in Hampshire and not much less in other parts of the country”.   This was a complete fabrication entirely misrepresenting a report by the HGCA that said that 40% of Hampshire crop above treatment thresholds – i.e. had enough of a problem with flea beetles that an insecticide application was justifiable.

In fact an update to this report showed that only 2.7% of the crop had been lost to flea beetles and of this 1.35% had been replanted – leaving a reduction in Oil seed rape crop are of just 1.35%.

Now this may be more than in an average year, and there have been challenges for farmers in some areas, but it is by no means disastrous or even very exceptional.  Particularly considering that this has not been an average year – very early cropping and very dry September – both provided ideal for cabbage stem flea beetle to thrive.  HCGA is wise to point to the weather factors rather than neonics as likely causes of crop losses.


STOP PRESS from our Campaigns Officer, Vanessa Amaral-Rogers

  • •             EFSA have recently published a Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment for aquatic organisms for the active substance imidacloprid. We were not aware that this was being undertaken but apparently has come about as a result of the Roessink et al, 2013 study on imidacloprid and Mayfly nymphs.


It has identified that:

“Definitive Regulatory Acceptable Concentrations (RACs) to be used for the acute and chronic risk assessment for aquatic organisms could not be established on the basis of the available data. However, in the absence of further data, the provisional tier-2 RACs should be considered currently as the most suitable approach for addressing the risk to the most sensitive aquatic species. Overall, based on these provisional tier-2 RACs and by following a conservative approach, a high acute and chronic risk could not be excluded for the representative uses in apple and field tomato and a high chronic risk could not be excluded for the representative use in glasshouse tomato, while a low risk may be concluded for the representative use in sugar beet based on a weight of evidence approach. Overall, further data would be needed to draw a firm conclusion and/or to refine the risk assessment”

From our understanding, the European Commission will now have to respond to this report although it may wait until the review on the neonicotinoid suspension prior to next year.