12 March 2013
Some insecticide products have been increasingly implicated in the decline of honeybees over the past decade, and there is serious concern that they pose unacceptable risk to wild bees and pollinators. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 are pollinated by bees(1).
Pippa Bartolotti, Leader of the Green Party in Wales said, "Bee-keepers and petitioners are anxious to hear how the Secretary of State has not failed in his duty of care to bee protection. By failing to act swiftly, he has allowed the seed crop for this spring to be impregnated with pesticides linked to the weakening of bee colonies, thus prolonging the harm being done. This is beginning to look like negligence."
Today, the Wales Green Party wrote a strongly worded letter on behalf of petitioners and bee-keepers to David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales asking that he urgently carries out his duty under provision of the 1980 Bees Act to protect bees, as well as ensure the UK does not fall foul of European law.
Pippa Bartolotti said, "There are more than 40,000 concerned people who urgently need to know what the position of the Secretary of State is on this matter, for the sake of bees and other pollinators, Ministers should have no qualms in making bee survival their top priority. We do not understand why the Minister is dragging his feet.
"The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales, are responsible for ensuring bees are not at risk from insecticides. The law requires that insecticides are robustly tested prior to authorisation being granted, and where risk assessment has not been finalised, we believe products should be immediately withdrawn from the market."
Research at the University of Sterling found that colonies of Buff-tailed bumblebees exposed to the neonicotinoid Imidacloprid, produced 85% fewer queens than control colonies(4). The success and survival of new bumblebee queens is essential to ensure the viability of future bumblebee populations. Pesticide risk assessment requires tests on very few species including the honey bee, which are meant to be representative for invertebrates as a whole(5). Neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides that permeate the whole plant, and residues of some neonicointoids may remain in the soil for at least 2 years(6).
Last year, EFSA, the European Food Standards Agency, had identified significant flaws in regulatory risk assessment guidelines for testing pesticides on honey bees, and highlighted a need for consideration of wild bees within the regulatory system(2). Upon further investigation of three neonicotinoids, EFSA scientists identified areas of high risk to bees from flowering crops, as well as a number of data gaps that would have to be filled to allow further evaluation of the potential risks to bees from clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam(3).
On Thursday 21st February, Pippa Bartolotti, Leader of the Wales Green Party handed in a petition of 40,440 signatures to John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, asking him to outlaw the use and sale of neonicotinoid insecticides in Wales.
EU Regulation 1107/2009 (Annex II, 3.8.3.) states: "An active substance, safener or synergist shall be approved only if it is established following an appropriate risk assessment on the basis of Community or internationally agreed test guidelines, that the use under the proposed conditions of use of plant protection products containing this active substance, safener or synergist: will result in a negligible exposure of honey bees, or has no unacceptable acute or chronic effects on colony survival and development, taking into account effects on honey bee larvae and honey bee behaviour."
(1) EFSA: Bee health http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/beehealth.htm
(2) Scientific Opinion on the science behind the development of a risk assessment of Plant Protection Products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees) http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2668.htm
(3) EFSA identifies risks to bees from neonicotinoids http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/130116.htm?utm_source=homepage&utm_m edium=infocus&utm_campaign=beehealth
(4) Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production - Whitehorn et al, Science 20 April 2012: 351-352.Publ: 29 March 2012 [DOI:10.1126/science.1215025]
(5) Chemicals Regulation Directorate "DATA REQUIREMENTS HANDBOOK"- Version 2.2, June 2012
(6) "Behaviour of Imidacloprid in Fields.Toxicity for Honey Bees"; Bonmatin et al.