Europe should opt to restrict the use of controversial pesticides by 2015 providing a breathing space to allow evidence gathering between now and then to prove or disprove they are harmful to bees.

Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has written to the UK Government urging them to accept the restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids but not to implement them until further evidence is gathered.  If the research proves the pesticide is not harmful to bees, the proposals should then be withdrawn.

Neonicotinoids account for one per cent of all pesticides used in Scotland and are mainly used to treat oilseed rape crops and some seed potatoes as well as some horticultural crops and winter sown cereals.

The proposed restrictions would only affect certain uses of the pesticides on crops with flowers that are attractive to bees.

France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already banned the use of neonicitinoids and a large number of member states are expected to back restrictions at the relevant meeting on Monday in Brussels.  In the absence of conclusive scientific evidence, Mr Lochhead said he believed it was right that Europe seeks conclusive evidence before the ban is actually implemented.

Mr Lochhead said:

“The Scottish Government takes the health of bees and other insect pollinators very seriously but, in this case, the science has not been clear cut. Ministers have to therefore make careful judgements in the absence of conclusive evidence.

“I recognise that this is a highly sensitive and emotive subject. It is, therefore, disappointing that the results from the bumble bee field trials were inconclusive.

“When it comes to protecting our biodiversity and wildlife, there are times when taking a precautionary approach is perfectly justifiable. It is in the interests of our environment and our farmers that we have healthy bee populations but we know there are a wide range of factors affecting these valuable pollinators.

“However, given the lack of conclusive evidence I think it would be sensible to carry out a further programme of research over the next two years. If the results prove conclusively the pesticide does not harm bees, the proposals would be withdrawn. If not, the proposals would be implemented. A breathing space would allow any existing stocks to be used and also time to ensure that any alternatives on the market do not make matters worse.  

“I do not think that year after year of debate over what the science tells us will get us very far or help our bee populations or farmers. That’s why I am suggesting a precautionary approach with a built in breathing space and exit strategy.

“I have therefore written to DEFRA ministers urging them to seek a two-year delay to implementation of the European Commission proposals to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides while further evidence is gathered, and believe this approach offers more clarity than the current approach favoured by them.”


2013-04-29 19:27

I’ve posted these links before. This is not debate. It is evidence from research.

Here is Prof Dave Goulson of the University of Stirling talking about his research on the effect of neonicotinoids on bumblebees…/ and a summary of the work of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research on the effect of neonicotinoids on honey bees…/…

As for an exit strategy, given that the French have already banned neonicotinoids, would it not be productive to contact INRA and find out what French farmers did to move to farming without neonicotinoids?
2013-04-30 13:54

I walk my dogs along a riverbank, have for years, and while I have put it down to the bad winters, on summer evenings, these days there is a fraction of the insect life you might expect to see silhouetted in the sunshine. Butterflies are very rare, I see 1 or 2 where I might expect to see a dozen. Bumblebees are rarer by similar proportion. Wild honey bees? Don’t recall the last to be honest.

It’s not a bad situation, a clear river with fish, and everything from otters to kingfishers there to be seen reestablishing wild populations.

Maybe it’s just a false impression I’m convincing myself I see, but nature doesn’t buzz the way I seem to remember.

There another suspect besides insecticides, a giant wild type of rhubarb which forms a canopy over wild flowers etc. I hope the council kill it off, but they’ll do nothing as usual.

This years growth is bursting out all over, tight pink flower buds the shape of toilet brushes.
2013-04-30 15:58

Breeks,you may very well be right, the giant rhubarb thing may very well be Giant Hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum (TOXIC!)and the pink bogbrush is Bistort Polygonum bistorta.
Ah but wait, on second thoughts if they’re the same plant then its likely to be Butterbur Petasites hybridus a harmless plant of streamsides.
The problem is, in killing off these plants, you kill off the insects by starving them of early nectar which will inevitably affect fish populations etc up the food chain.
So, solution … grow Hemp to replace the plants you dont want by out competeing them, shading them out. Then in a couple of years sow a waterside mix of seeds to replace the Hemp.
2013-05-01 16:06

Butterbur it is. 100%.

I’m no botanist at all, but it forms quite a dense canopy and I have the impression it suppresses other flowers which changes the ecosystem and we see fewer insects.

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.