Buglife: US leak reignites pesticide fears for UK bees

In a leaked memo US government scientists warn that bees and other non-target invertebrates are at risk from a new neonicotinoid pesticide licence and that tests in the approval process are unable to detect environmental damage. This has reignited concerns raised in a 2009 scientific report by UK charity Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists flagged up the risks to honey-bees and aquatic insects that would result if the US Government approved the request from Bayer to expand the use of the neonicotinoid clothianidin to include cotton and mustard. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and other non-target insects, the biggest concerns are that, being systemic they end up in the pollen and nectar in the flowers of treated crops, and hence could poison pollinators, and that being persistent and mobile they could wash into streams, ponds and rivers and destroy aquatic life.

“We rely on bees and other insects to pollinate our crops and keep our rivers healthy. This leak is yet another warning that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides could be contributing to the current decline in wildlife. We have again asked Government to take protective action,” said Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife.

In the leaked memo the EPA scientists state that “information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects” and they criticise existing approvals research as deficient and request additional tests “for additional chronic testing on bee hive activity (e.g., effects to queen, larvae, etc.).” This reflects the conclusions of the 2009 Buglife report that highlighted inadequate testing in the European approvals process and asked the UK Government to: review existing neonicotinoid and fipronil products authorised for outdoor use, with a precautionary suspension of products until the reviews are completed. To-date the UK Government has failed to act on these specific asks, despite the growing body of scientific evidence.

A recent scientific paper stressed the high toxicity of neonicotinoids at very low concentrations, noting that these low-level, long-term effects would not be detected by current test methods for pesticides.

The timing is bad for the UK Government as last week its response to the new EU Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides was accused of being weak, ‘business friendly’ and of failing to take the opportunity to provide improved protection to the public or the environment.


Buglife report - Kindemba V. (2009) The impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumblebees, Honeybees and other non-target invertebrates. Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust. This report reviews the previous literature on neonicotinoid pesticides in relation to impacts on non-target invertebrates, for a copy of the report go to: http://www.bijensterfte.nl/sites/default/files/Iimpact_neonicotinoid_ins...

Recent scientific paper on toxicity – Tennekes H. (2010) The Significance of the Druckrey-Kupfmuller Equation for Risk Assessment – The Toxicity of Neonicotinoid Insecticides to Arthropods is Reinforced by Exposure Time. Toxicology. 276 (1), 1-4

Full leaked EPA document - http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Memo_Nov2010_Clothianidin.pdf

Source: Buglife, 23 December 2010