Home > Environment, Government, Health > No UK ban on pesticides that ‘threaten bees’ .

No UK ban on pesticides that ‘threaten bees’ .

By Michael McCarthy  7th September 2012.

European and American reports say nerve agents may be a danger, but the UK goes on using them.

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Nerve-agent pesticides should not be banned in Britain despite four separate scientific studies strongly linking them to sharp declines in bees around the world, Government scientists have advised.

An internal review of recent research on neonicotinoids – pesticides that act on insects’ central nervous systems and are increasingly blamed for problems with bee colonies – has concluded that no change is needed in British regulation.

The British position contrasts sharply with that of France, which in June banned one of the pesticides, thiamethoxam, made by the Swiss chemicals giant Syngenta. French scientists said it was impairing the abilities of honey-bees to find their way back to their nests. The Green MP Caroline Lucas described the British attitude as one of “astonishing complacency”.

Concern is growing around the world that the chemicals may affect the ability of bees to pollinate crops, something that would have catastrophic consequences for agriculture. Bee pollination has been valued at £200m per year in Britain and £128bn worldwide.

The French research was published in March in the journal Science at the same time as another study by British researchers from the University of Stirling, implicating neonicotinoids in the decline of bumblebees. The British team showed that production of queens, essential for bumblebee colonies to continue, declined by 85 per cent after they were exposed to “field-realistic levels” of another neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, made by the German company Bayer.

In January, the US government’s chief bee researcher published a study showing that imidacloprid makes honeybees far more susceptible to disease, even at doses so low as to be barely detectable. And in April, a team from Harvard claimed to show that imidacloprid was the culprit in colony collapse disorder, in which bees abandon their hives en masse.

All four of these studies have been the subject of a British Government review ordered by Sir Robert Watson, chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – which has concluded that no action needs to be taken against the chemicals concerned.

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Categories: Environment, Government, Health
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