Crop spraying. Photo credit: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Ban bee-killing pesticides, British government committee says

There’s a growing call in the United Kingdom for political leaders to ban neonicotinoid-based pesticides that are being blamed for killing bees.
Meanwhile, in Canada, we’re continuing to study just how bad it can get.
This week the all-party Environmental Audit Committee of the British Parliament came out swinging, making bee deaths as a result of neonicotinoids all but political in nature.
The committee noted that while the European Commission wants to limit use of the pesticides and many countries – France among them – have already banned their use on crops – the British government (like Canada) has simply wanted to do more studies.
Last month European Union member governments failed to agree to a ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides – imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam – that are widely blamed for the decline in bees. The EU commission says it will push a ban through unless members come up with a compromise.
That crack in the window has allowed two pesticide manufacturers, Syngenta and Bayer AG, to propose a bee health monitoring program including planting more flowering plants and research into technologies to reduce production of pesticide dust. It has led to criticism that the pesticide industry shouldn’t be involved in trying to regulate insects their pesticides kill.
Meanwhile the British parliamentary committee now believes there’s enough evidence that neonicotinoids should be banned outright.
Of course, the British press jumped on this story in the breathless way that only Fleet Street can do: I love this piece in the Daily Mail that says “plummeting numbers blamed on ministers’ complacency”. The Independent also got the words “nerve agent” in the headline.
The committee is urging the British government to ban the neonics for use in crops such as oil seed, by 2014.
Here in Canada the Pest Management Regulatory Agency is in the middle of two re-evaluations of neonicotinoid pesticides – imidacloprid in the first case and clothianidin and thiamethoxam in the other.
However, those pesticides continue to be permitted for use in Canada. As I wrote in a recent post, PMRA recently issued new guidelines for their use in the wake of the rash of hive poisonings that took place around Ontario and Quebec corn fields that were sprayed with neonics.
Syngenta, which makes thiamethoxam, issued a statement after the British report was released.

“Although governments, reputable universities and experts across Europe share the view that these innovative pesticides are safe, there are a small number of vocal individuals and groups who continue to suggest the opposite by focusing only on the intrinsic hazard of these products.”

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