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New study shows banned pesticide harms honey bees

news release

A new bees and pesticides study by the Government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) released today links losses of honey bee colonies with the use of the neonicotinoid pesticide, imidacloprid, one of the pesticides covered by a European ban since 1 December 2013.

Friends of the Earth’s bees campaigner, Paul de Zylva, said: “This blows apart the denials of the pesticides and industrial farming lobby that pesticides are safe for honey bees. The scientific evidence is overwhelming that neonicotinoid pesticides harm honey bees and wild bees alike.

“Since the ban on the use of neonic pesticides started, ten independent studies and reviews have added to the weight of evidence that they harm wild bees.

“The average UK arable field is treated with twenty chemicals in a year – there have been no tests for the cocktail effect this has on either honey bees or more susceptible wild bees.

“The study also raises further doubt that using neonic pesticides boosts yields. Last year saw a bumper crop of oil-seed rape and that looks set to be repeated this year – all pollinated by bees and grown without banned neonics.”


Notes to editors

1. Fera’s study also suggests that use of imidacloprid may mean that farmers can reduce the use of other chemicals, that farmers ‘may derive an economic return’ from using the particular pesticide but that this is not always the case. Fera says that large scale field studies are needed to fully understand their effects on the environment.

2.  Large scale field trials were abandoned by the Government in favour of field trials funded by pesticide industry firms, Bayer and Syngenta, whose products are currently restricted for use by the 2013 European Commission moratorium.

The only Government field trial to be conducted (published in March 2013) was not peer reviewed and was criticised by independent scientists. At the time the Government claimed that the study found no significant evidence of harm from neonicotinoids to wild bumble bees. The Government used this to bolster its stance against the then proposed European ban on some uses of three neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid.

Earlier this year, the Government’s field trial was re-evaluated by Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex. Far from showing little or insignificant effects, the reappraised results “show a negative relationship between both colony growth and queen production and the levels of neonicotinoids in the food stores collected by the bees”.


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

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust

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