Stinging Attack On Bee Study | January 28, 2013 Issue - Vol. 91 Issue 4 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 91 Issue 4 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: January 28, 2013 | Web Date: January 25, 2013

Stinging Attack On Bee Study

Insecticides: Syngenta, Bayer swat at European study linking neonicotinoid pesticides to bee population decline
Department: Business | Collection: Critter Chemistry
News Channels: Biological SCENE, Environmental SCENE
Keywords: bees, neonicotinoid, agriculture , Europe

The agrochemical companies Syngenta and Bayer are attacking a study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that investigated the cause of bee population decline in Europe. The study finds that the neonicotinoid insecticides clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam, which target the nervous systems of insects, are implicated in bee population decline in Europe—or at least can’t be ruled out as a cause.

“This report is unworthy of EFSA and of its scientists,” said John Atkin, chief operating officer of Syngenta, the world’s largest agricultural chemicals firm. “It is obvious to us that EFSA has found itself under political pressure to produce a hurried and inadequate risk assessment. Their report, compiled in under three months, has not taken account of the comprehensive scientific studies that preceded the launch of neonicotinoids and many years of extensive monitoring in the field.”

Herman Fontier, head of the authority’s pesticides unit, countered on BBC radio that Atkin’s accusation of political influence is “totally nonsensical” and that his claim of a rush job is “not relevant or true.” Other studies, including those by British and French scientists published last year in the journal Science, also link neonicotinoids to bee population decline.

Bayer and Syngenta acknowledge that bee populations are in decline but say it is not caused by neonicotinoids. “In reality, the main consensus reached when evaluating the scientific research in this area is that poor bee health and colony losses are caused by multiple factors, the parasitic varroa mite being the key issue,” Bayer said. The firm has offered to help address gaps in knowledge about the bee problem that the study identified.

The European Commission and European Union member states aren’t obligated to act on the food safety authority’s findings but could use them to guide legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that honeybees are in decline in the U.S. as well but cites a lack of evidence linking neonicotinoids to the population reductions.

Regulators with plans to control the use of neonicotinoids could be in for a fight. “We will deploy all means at our disposal to defend the use of this product,” Atkin said.

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Peter L Borst (January 27, 2013 9:43 AM)
News that neonicotinoid insecticides make a significant contribution to crop production in the UK should be welcomed as another piece of the debate on bee and pollinator health, the NFU [National Farmers Union] said.

The Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture reportsays that if UK farmers no longer had access to neonicotinoid seed treatment technology then it would result in a loss of approximately £630 million to the economy each year.

The report also shows that in unfavourable years, such as 2012, the loss of neonicotinoids could result in declines in winter wheat yield of up to 20 per cent, which would make this crop uneconomic for UK farmers to grow.

NFU lead on bee health Dr Chris Hartfield said: "The results of this work are important, particularly in light of work being done currently by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewing neonicotinoid seed treatments.

"While EFSA's work has identified gaps in the current regulatory process assessing how pesticides affect bees, we still do not know how relevant these gaps are and whether plugging them would actually improve the health of bees or other pollinators.

"Any decision to change the way pesticides are used to control crop pests will have an impact on both the protection of insect pollinators and the protection of crops.

"It is essential that we fully understand all these impacts before taking any action.

"Otherwise there is a significant risk we could make changes that do nothing to improve bee health, or even worsen the bee health situation, while also compromising the effectiveness of what this socio-economic report clearly shows is very important way of protecting our crops from pests."
David Cramp (January 27, 2013 10:00 PM)
So who do you believe??
Curtis Fromke (January 29, 2013 11:45 AM)
There are really some bad puns available. To be or not to be may be ecologically our end.
jonalisa (February 23, 2013 6:44 PM)
"The Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture reportsays that if UK farmers no longer had access to neonicotinoid seed treatment technology then it would result in a loss of approximately 630 million to the economy each year."

What would be the amount lost if there were no bees to pollinate?
kateann416 (February 28, 2013 2:42 PM)
Interesting debate on what is causing bee decline. This article simulates bee attacks and attack sizes.

I wonder if/how the trigger for a bee attack is effected by pesticides or other technologies?

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