Bee positive

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YOUR report on the European Union agreement on a partial and time-limited ban on certain pesticides (29 April) cites reference to the supposedly disastrous economic effects of this temporary two-year ban on three neonicotinoids (only under certain conditions, such as for crops attractive to bees), but – crucially – does not make clear who came up with the figure.

It is important to know that the figure comes from the widely derided Humboldt study, sponsored by chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta. It based its calculations on economic losses on a supposed 40 per cent drop in yields after a pesticide ban, despite the fact that yields from organic farming, which uses no synthetic chemicals, are usually only 20-25 per cent lower.

The study takes no account of the economic benefits of insect pollination, which the European Commission estimates to be worth €15billion (£12.7bn) a year in the EU. Furthermore, the Apenet study in Italy, which has banned neonicotinoids, showed the ban resulted in a drop of bee losses from 37.5 per cent in 2007-8 to 15 per cent in 2010-11 – without noticeable drops in yields or productivity.

While more scientific research should be done, which may indeed lead to a relaxing of the ban, the ecological and economic costs of doing nothing and then discovering there is a link will be far worse. We can recover from a couple of years of no neonicotinoids; we cannot recover from the loss of our insect pollinators.

Alyn Smith MEP

European Parliament