Pesticides report by farming and chemical lobby is dangerously misleading

21st October 2014
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Commenting on the Healthy Harvest report by the NFU and the pesticide lobby, Paul de Zylva, Friends of the Earth’s nature campaigner said:  “This dangerously misleading report lacks any credible, independent and peer reviewed science.

“Instead of attacking regulations in place to protect our health and wildlife, we should all focus on finding alternatives to chemicals. The evidence is overwhelming that intensive use of chemicals is harming bees and  other wildlife and the quality of our water and soils. That’s the real threat to our food security.

“Some ‘neonic’ chemicals are currently banned because top British and European scientists found they pose a ‘high acute risk’ to bees. That’s the kind of good evidence-based science the NFU and others should be backing.

“One study found UK arable fields being treated with over 20 different chemicals in a year. It is not that there are too few chemicals available to use but that there are probably too many. If the NFU, the Government and pesticides industry have done proper tests for the combined effect this cocktail of chemicals is having, I have yet to see them.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. In June 2014 the largest and longest global study into the effects and risks of systemic pesticides including neonicotinoids (‘neonics’) was published by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.

The Task Force’s Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA) examined over 800 scientific studies spanning the past five years, including industry sponsored ones.

The WIA is the single most comprehensive study of neonics ever undertaken, is peer reviewed, and published as free access so that the findings and the source material can be thoroughly examined by others.

The Task Force concludes that neonicotinoids “are causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial invertebrate species and are a key factor in the decline of bees.”

The study also found that use of systemic chemicals is also now harming other wildlife and water and soil quality:

2. On 16 October 2014 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the use of neonics on soya beans is of ‘little or no overall benefit” to the quality of the crop, raising questions about why farmers have been paying to use them and how well they have been tested before being licensed for use.

3. In July 2014, a peer-reviewed study found the decline of birds to be associated with pesticide use and water contamination in the Netherlands as covered in the press –  the BBC and The Guardian.

4. In 16 January 2013, British and European scientists urged that certain neonicotinoid chemicals  should be suspended from some uses. Their review of evidence for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identified that neonics pose a ‘high acute risk’ to bees.

5. On 25 June 2014, NFU Vice President, Guy Smith, claimed on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Farming Today, that oil seed rape was being devastated due to the present restriction in the use of some neonicotinoids. He said: “…we have just found that 70% of the Swedish Spring Oil Seed Rape crop was destroyed this year by flea beetles.” Buglife, the conservation charity, said the claims were unfounded. Mr Smith apologised on Twitter. Government figures have since shown that any loss of oil seed rape crop to genuine pests is within normal seasonal and annual fluctuations.

6. Leading bee expert, Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex, (founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and best-selling author of ‘A Sting in the Tail’)  has responded to claims that the UK’s oil seed rape crop is being devastated by as much as 50% by infestations of flea beetle and that restrictions on use of certain chemicals are misplaced.

For press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust