Friday, May 27

Pesticide believed to kill bees is licensed for use in England | Pesticides


A pesticide believed to kill bees has been licensed for use in England despite a European Union-wide ban two years ago, the government announced.

Following lobbying by the National Farmers Union (NFU) and British Sugar, a product containing the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam was sanctioned this year for emergency use in sugar beet seeds due to the threat posed by a virus.

Conservationists have described the decision as “regressive” and called for safeguards to prevent contamination of rivers with rainwater containing the chemical, at a time when British insects are in serious decline.

The decision by 11 countries to allow emergency use of the product comes amid growing awareness of the damaging role refined sugar plays in developing long-term health problems.

Matt Shardlow, executive director of the invertebrate conservation group Buglife, said it was an “environmentally regressive” decision that would destroy wildflowers and add to the “onslaught” that insects experience.

“Furthermore, no action is proposed to prevent pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beets,” he said. “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban the use of neonics in sugar beets in 2018, they are still going to harm the environment.”

Michael Sly, chairman of the NFU sugar board, said he was relieved the request had been granted and that the industry was working to find long-term solutions to the yellow virus disease. “Any treatment will be used in a limited and controlled way on sugar beet, a non-flowering crop, and only when it has been independently determined that the scientific threshold has been reached,” he said.

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“Yellow virus disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorization is desperately needed to combat this disease. It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable agricultural businesses. “

The EU agreed to ban all outdoor uses of thiamethoxam in 2018 to protect bees. But countries such as Belgium, Denmark and Spain have signed emergency authorizations to allow its use, according to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

A similar emergency request for England in 2018 was rejected after government pesticide advisers said it would “cause unacceptable effects to bees on flowering crops and flowering plants on the margins of fields.”

He added that it would harm “birds and mammals that eat seedlings of treated seeds and birds that consume granulated seeds” and runs the risk of “adversely affecting aquatic insect populations.”

Scientists observed “severe” declines in some British bee species starting in 2007, coinciding with the introduction of the previously widely used thiamethoxam. Studies suggest that it weakens the immune system of bees, damages the brain development of baby bees, and may render them unable to fly. Another study has found that honey samples are contaminated by neonicotinoids.

The government estimated that the proposed use of the pesticide to protect beet crops in eastern England in 2018 was worth around £ 18 million. Yields from 2020 are forecast to drop as much as 25% from previous years, Defra said. The pesticide, sold by the Chinese-owned agrochemical company Syngenta, is announced to increase crop yields by 13%.

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A spokesperson for Defra said: “Emergency authorizations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. European countries use emergency authorizations.

“Pesticides can only be used when we judge that there is no harm to human and animal health, and there are no unacceptable risks to the environment. Temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be strictly controlled to minimize any potential risk to pollinators. “

In the bottom line of his background statement, Defra added: “Pollinator protection is a priority for this government.”


www.theguardian.com

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