DEFRA's excuse for not imposing a complete ban on the use of neonicotinoids has been that previous research showing harm has not been 'in the real world'. Now Science has published the long awaited report from field research carried out in three countries (UK, Germany and Hungary) under normal farming practices.
Results in the UK and Hungary show significant harm to wild bees and managed bees while results in Germany show some positive effects. Researchers theorise that the prevalence in the UK and Hungary of rapeseed for bee forage and of disease in hives explains the variation between these countries and Germany. The researchers note that survival rates in UK hives were so low that they were unable to carry out statistical analysis.
Manufacturers may well claim that the results are inconsistent and that they can take measures to control and reduce the harmful effects. This would be highly dangerous. Neonicotinoid residues are low at the moment, owing to a partial ban in the UK and a moratorium in the EU, but there is litle doubt that they interact with other residues in ways that are not fully understood and continued use is likely to magnify these effects. The only safe policy is a total ban.
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