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Scientists identify new risks to bees from pesticides – Friends of the Earth reaction

news release

A new study by European scientists, published today, confirms that neonicotinoid pesticides applied as foliar sprays pose a risk to bees of all kinds.

The new report comes in the same week that Friends of the Earth announced it was mounting a legal challenge to a UK Government decision last month to allow some farmers to use seeds treated with ‘banned’ neonicotinoid pesticides in England.

In the report published today, scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have identified ‘high risks’ to bees when three of the neonicotinoids, which are currently restricted for use because of previous scientific studies, are used as sprays on crop leaves and foliage.

EFSA’s latest study confirms that the risk applies to bees of all kinds – managed honey bees and to wild bumble and solitary bees.

Paul de Zylva senior nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:

“Another day and yet another study shows the high risk to bees from neonicotinoid pesticides.

“The evidence of harm is clear. Questions need to be asked about how these products were ever approved for use when they were not tested for their effects on different types of bees.

“Even now the scientists point to gaps in information to make full evaluations. It’s like testing a new car without seeing how it corners.

“This study underlines why neonics are restricted and why we are challenging the Government’s decision to allow use of the banned pesticides in England.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Neonicotinoids: foliar spray uses confirmed as a risk to bees | EFSA.

2. In January 2013, EFSA concluded that three of the neonicotinoid pesticides (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam) should not be used as seed coatings on crops and plants which are thought to be attractive to bees when they flower.

Those findings led to Europe adopting a restriction on the use of the three pesticides as seed treatments. In the light of its findings EFSA was asked to also review how the same three neonicotinoids might affect bees when used as leaf sprays.

The 2013 study could only find a risk to honey bees because of a lack of adequate information on the risks to wild bumble and solitary bees. EFSA’s latest study confirms that the risk applies to bees of all kinds – managed honey bees and to wild bumble and solitary bees.

EFSA once again confirmed that all of the risks could not be fully assessed because of an ongoing lack of evidence pointing to a lack of proper studies in the past by the producers of the chemicals.

3. Bees: Friends of the Earth mounts legal challenge over pesticide decision | press release.

4. Last week, the Government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) released a study of one of the neonicotinoids covered by the European restriction, imidacloprid, posed a high risk to honey bees.

5. For imidacloprid, EFSA concludes: “For all the authorised uses, high risks were identified or high risks could not be excluded or the risk assessment could not be finalised. For the authorised uses in permanent greenhouse structures, a low risk to honeybees, bumble bees and solitary bees was concluded for all exposure routes except the risk assessment for honeybees from residues in surface water. The risk assessment for honeybees from residues in surface water could not be finalised with the available information. However, it is noted that pertinent risk assessments were available for two open field spray uses (the EU representative uses in tomato and apple) that indicated a low risk to honeybees.”

For clothianidin, EFSA concludes: “For all the authorised uses high risks were identified or could not be excluded, or the risk assessment could not be finalised.”

For thiamethoxam, EFSA concludes: “For all the authorised uses, high risks were identified or could not be excluded, or the risk assessment could not be finalised. It is noted, however, that for the authorised uses in permanent greenhouse structures, a low risk to honeybees, bumble bees and solitary bees was concluded for all exposure routes, except the risk assessment for honeybees from residues in surface water which could not be finalised.”

6. EFSA’s previously found a ‘high acute risk’ to bees from the use of the three neonicotinoid pesticides when used as coatings of seeds.

7. For this report EFSA assessed the risk to all bees.  But pesticides are currently only tested for their impacts on honey bees.  New guidance developed by EFSA in 2013 to improve the risk assessment for pesticide products on bees has not yet been agreed by EU Member States.

 

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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