Calls for delay on pesticide ban over bee fears

New scientific research on a pesticide, which is facing a ban from the European Commission, has shown that claimed harmful effects on bees have not been witnessed under normal field situations.

According to Scottish MEP George Lyon, the study by the UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) into neonicotinoids demonstrated why further research was needed before a ban on their use was introduced.

Lyon had previously called for a full assessment before any ban came into force.

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“We need to take action to protect our bees but the evidence so far would suggest that a ban on neonicotinoids would not necessarily help,” he said. “We should also be under no illusions that a blanket ban would make life difficult for many within our agricultural sector.

“Given the importance of the seed treatment to Scotland’s farmers, a kneejerk reaction is not what we need to see from the Commission. The evidence does not support a full ban at present and the Commission needs to demonstrate a degree of flexibility and work to protect farmers as well as bees.”

Andrew Bauer of NFU Scotland pointed to the research findings of “no clear consistent relationships” between neonicotinoid residues and the health of bees.

He admitted the issue was hugely contentious and politicised so it was useful to have impartial, high-quality research adding to the debate. “Many of those calling for an immediate ban have based their arguments on the findings of laboratory-based studies,” he said. “The research has highlighted the importance of field-based studies, and the risks associated with extrapolating from laboratory-based findings.”

On the political front, he said it was essential that all EU member states had a thorough understanding of the issues affecting bee health before they took any final decisions.

Meanwhile Syngenta and Bayer CropScience, two of the major manufacturers of the pesticide, have proposed an “action plan” to deal with the issue.

John Atkin of Syngenta said banning the products would not save a single hive and it was time that everyone focused on addressing the real causes of declining bee populations.

The plan would include creating pollen-rich, flowering field margins, comprehensive field monitoring of bees and investment in new technologies to further reduce dust emissions from treated seed.