If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Stinging Attack On Bee Study

Insecticides: Syngenta, Bayer swat at European study linking neonicotinoid pesticides to bee population decline

by Alex Scott
January 25, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 4

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.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.