The European Environment Agency have this month published a report ‘Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation’ (EEA, 2013) available at: http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2 which comprehensively assesses the historical conflict between commercial companies and protection of the environment and makes a case for the stronger use of the precautionary principle. After publication Bayer reacted angrily in an illuminating dialogue between Dr Richard Schmuck, Head of Department of Environmental Safety of Bayer CropScience and the authors of the chapter on ‘Seed-dressing systemic insecticides and honeybees’, Laura Maxim and Jeroen van der Sluijs, which you can read here; Late lessons from early warnings II – Bee decline web debate . The dialogue goes much further than scientific disagreements, and exposes the way large companies like Bayer exert disproportionate influence through participation in quasi official bodies such as the ICPPR – The International Commission for Plant-Pollinator Relationships, and their funding of, and influence over, ostensibly independent research.
According to the Wildlife Trust’s latest policy paper “There is a growing body of evidence that shows that neonicotinoids have a detrimental effect at sub-lethal doses on insect pollinators. For this reason, The Wildlife Trusts believe that until it can be categorically proven that neonicotinoids are not adversely impacting pollinator populations, and by extension ecosystem health, Government should adopt the precautionary principle and place a moratorium on their use on all outdoor crops.”
Small Blue Marble is pleased to announce the publication of the paper,
J Environ Analytic Toxicol 2012, S4-006, doi: 10.4172/2161-0525.S4-006
Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence by M Antoniou, MEM Habib, CV Howard, RC Jennings, C Leifert, RO Nodari, CJ Robinson and J Fagan
the paper is now officially published. It is available at:
The publication of this paper was financially supported by Small Blue Marble.
See the Independent report today http://tinyurl.com/dyz98ok
More than 30 studies in three years show adverse effects of neonicotinoid pesticides
summarising Matt Shardlow’s testimony to the UK Government Environmental Audit Committee
This inquiry will examine the effect of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators. In particular, the Committee will consider Defra’s policy and regulations on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the light of the available evidence on the impact of such pesticides on pollinators.
The Committee has launched a new inquiry into the impact of insecticides on bees and other insects.
On 18 September, Defra published an analysis of the results of its review of research done earlier in the year on the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees. It concluded that the studies did not justify changing existing regulations, but also that it was undertaking further research itself and would produce a new risk assessment for bees by the end of 2012.
The Committee will examine the basis on which Defra decided not to take action at this stage and whether such a course is justified by the available evidence. Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, wrote to The Guardian last week announcing aspects that the Committee inquiry would examine:
- The use (or abuse) of evidence in this particular case, for setting policy and regulations on pesticides.
- The application of real-world – ‘field’ – data. What monitoring there is of actual – rather than recommended – levels of pesticide usage, and the extent to which that influences policy on pesticides.
- Any potential impacts of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides on human health.
- What alternative pest-control measures should be used, such as natural predators and plant breeding for insect-resistance, in a bid to make UK farming more insect- and bee-friendly.
The Chair of the Committee wrote:
“We will be announcing details of the inquiry soon. In the meantime, Defra ministers may want to start doing their homework on pesticide policy and biodiversity, because we will be calling them before Parliament to answer questions on these issues. In particular, we will be scrutinising the evidence behind the Government’s decision not to revise pesticide regulations or follow other European countries in temporarily suspending the use of insecticides linked to bee decline.”
The Committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit written evidence, setting out their views on these issues. More wide ranging responses are also welcome. Submissions should ideally be sent to the Committee by Friday 2nd November, although later submissions may be accepted. Guidance on preparing submissions is set out below.
Media Information: Nick Davies email@example.com 020 7219 3297 / 07917488141
A new study by Richard J. Gill, Oscar Ramos-Rodriguez & Nigel E. Raine from the School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK was published yesterday in Nature.
Last month the Environmental Audit Committee of the UK Government decided to undertake an inquiry looking at the effects of pesticide use in the UK on biodiversity with a specific focus on bees.
The use (and abuse) of evidence in policy-making and formulating regulation is clearly at the heart of the matter. But other issues will be examined. What monitoring is there of actual – rather than recommended – levels of pesticide usage? What are the potential impacts of these insecticides on human health? And should Defra be encouraging alternative pest-control measures, such as natural predators and plant breeding for insect-resistance, in a bid to make UK farming more bee-friendly?
For more information see the Guardian article (dated 21st September).
Having survived for the first year of operation on private donations and subscriptions we are very grateful to a UK based fund for our first major institutional donation. Events have been gathering apace in recent months with the threat of neo-nicotinoids on insects being taken seriously by a wide range of organisations and we are very pleased that they will now be subject to a parliamentary enquiry.
Whilst there is some research on this subject in the public domain (see “Research Papers”) we desperately need more research and this means more funding. We are grateful for personal donations and look forward to further institutional funding from other environmentally aware trusts.
Countryfile 6th May 2012 examines recent evidence from Royal Holloway College, London and interviews Julian Little from Bayer and Miles Parker from DEFRA on concerns that neonicotinoids are having a major impact upon the bee population.
This link will only be active until 12th May http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01hpdjj
From The Economist March 31st 2012
Evidence is growing that commonly used pesticides, even when employed carefully, are bad for bees
IN THE winter of 2006 beekeepers in America noticed something odd—lots of their hives were dying for no obvious reason. As the months passed, reports of similar phenomena began coming in from their European counterparts. Mystified scientists coined the label “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) to describe what was happening. Since then, much brow-sweat has been expended trying to work out just what CCD really is.
Dying bees are a problem, and not just for apiarists. Bees pollinate many of the world’s crops—a service estimated to be worth $15 billion a year in America alone. And there is no shortage of theories to explain the insects’ decline. Climate change, habitat destruction, a paralysing virus, fungal infection and even a plague of parasitic mites have all been proposed. But one of the leading ideas is that the bees are suffering from the effects of neonicotinoids, a class of commonly used pesticides, introduced in the 1990s, which are toxic to insects but much less so to mammals.
Two papers published this week in Science lend weight to this idea. The first, from a group led by Penelope Whitehorn and David Goulson of the University of Stirling, in Britain, examined the effects these insecticides have on bumblebees, which are closely related to honeybees. Bumblebees are less studied than their honeybee cousins, but they also pollinate many commonly eaten crops, including strawberries, raspberries and runner beans.
The two researchers and their colleagues raised 75 bumblebee colonies in their laboratory. They exposed some, via contaminated pollen and sugar water, to high doses of imidacloprid, a type of neonicotinoid insecticide. Others were exposed to low doses (half as much as the high dose), or to no dose at all. Then, after two weeks of this treatment, the colonies were taken into the outside world and left there for six weeks, to see how the bees did.
All of the doses of imidacloprid, both high and low, that Dr Whitehorn gave her bees were “sublethal”—in other words, insufficient to kill the insects outright. Firms that produce pesticides, and the authorities that regulate them, are aware of the importance of bees to food production, and new products must be tested to make sure they are not fatal to helpful insects. But Dr Whitehorn found that even non-lethal doses of pesticide were bad for bees. Both the high-dose and the low-dose colonies grew more slowly than the undosed ones, gaining 8-12% less weight on average.
More importantly, the pesticides drastically inhibited the production of queens, which are needed to establish new nests each spring. (Unlike those of honeybees, bumblebee colonies do not survive the winter; they must be refounded by a hibernating queen.) The undosed colonies produced 13.7 queens, on average. Those given a small dose of insecticide produced two. Those given a high dose produced just 1.4. Worryingly, even colonies given the high dose may have got off lightly compared with their wild brethren. The researchers note that another British study found levels of imidacloprid in rape crops that were seven times higher than the food supplied by the researchers.
Dr Whitehorn’s paper does not propose a mechanism by which pesticides do their damage. But the second study, by a group led by Mickaël Henry at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, in Avignon, may shed some light on the matter. Inspired by previous laboratory-based work, which had suggested that sublethal doses of neonicotinoids damage honeybees’ memories, their ability to forage, and their ability to navigate back to their hive afterwards, Dr Henry decided to conduct some tests in the wild.
To that end, he and his colleagues glued tiny radio transmitters to the thoraxes of worker bees. These triggered a detector on the hive whenever a worker bearing one returned from a foraging trip. Some hives were given realistic doses of thiamtethoxam, a variety of neonicotinoid, while others were left alone. Dr Henry found that around twice as many treated bees as untreated ones failed to return to the hive. That, mathematical models indicate, might easily cause a hive to collapse.
Moreover, even if it did not do so alone, it could be a contributing factor. Many researchers believe the label “colony collapse disorder” covers a multitude of problems; that would account for the long list of possible causes. But neonicotinoids have the explanatory virtue of being a fairly recent development and also one which, as these two pieces of work suggest, could be a common factor in weakening a colony without actually pushing it over the edge. The killer blow would then be administered by something else: a mite infestation, perhaps, or a fungal infection, or whatever else happened to turn up that a healthy hive would have shrugged off. A paper published earlier this year in Naturwissenschaften, for example, showed that even small doses of neonicotinoids weakened bees’ resistance to Nosema, a common fungal parasite.
A few countries, including France, Germany and Slovenia, have already restricted the use of neonicotinoids because of worries about their effects on bees. It would help other places that are thinking of following suit if more realistic trials were conducted in the future, in conditions that mimic nature as closely as possible in the way that these two experiments have done. That might be more expensive than the present way of doing things, in which tests are mostly confined to laboratories and are concerned with finding out how much insecticide is needed to kill bees outright. But the growing evidence that insecticides damage bees in subtle ways means it would be money well spent.
Read the papers here;