A news bulletin about England's decision not to ban the chemical family of Nicotinamide poisons, which is toxic to bees, reports:
The Soil Association has criticised Hilary Benn's decision not to ban pesticides believed to damage honey bees' neurological and immune systems while millions are invested in trying to halt honey bee decline.
The association said that Benn, the UK's Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), had in a letter rejected its calls to prohibit use of a group of pesticides (Neonicotinoids) which have already been withdrawn in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.
It comes as Defra this week announced a boost to funding to try and identify the main threats to bees and other insect pollinators - bringing investment up to £10m. This followed the unveiling in March of Defra's new ten-year plan to protect pollinators.
The number of bees in the UK has fallen between 10 and 15 per cent over the last two years and the loss of bee populations globally is causing considerable concern for food security.
This is because they play a fundamental role in pollinating many plants and crops that we rely on for food.
Peter Melchett, SA policy director said: "While new funding and new research are welcome, it will not help if the Government ignores existing scientific evidence that has led other countries to ban chemicals known to kill bees.
"The Government prefers to blame 'very wet weather' and poor management by 'less experienced beekeepers' than to face their own responsibility to control bee-killing chemicals that have been used on up to 1.5 million acres of farmland in the UK." Click here to read full news item.
I looked up Mr Benn's profile to see what his background was, to see if there may have been a conflict of interests. I found it rather disconcerting to learn he is a vegetarian, as almost every single food this man eats is pollinated by bees. The crucial need of bees should be more important to him, or so one would think.
The government department he heads, Defra, is allocating a total of 10 million pounds to research, but refuses to stop a known hazard to bees from the 1.5 million acres of farmland it is presently used on.
The excuses given for bee failure are so poor as to be unbelievable in any real sense: wet weather? inexperienced beekeepers? The average age of most Beekeepers is late 50's and over. They are long on experience, and England is famous for rain.
It takes hard work, long hours, and for the amount of time, effort, fuel, etc. required to run an efficient apiary, hardly pays a living wage, let alone a profit. While the price to you, the consumer, is around the $15 to $20 a kg mark, the beekeeper is lucky to be paid $3.50 if that at the factory door. (I use AU prices.) Apart from filtering and bottling, it is not a highly costly product to process.
Bayer admits toxicity to bees is possible. What they do not make widely known is just how long the RESIDUAL effects linger in the soils and plants. Used as a seed treatment, this family of chemicals systemically poisons the entire plant, to deter boring insects. Nicotinamides kill earthworms, fish, and marine invertebrates, birds, bats and bees. They cause shell thinning in birds that survive, and have caused thyroid issues in lab animals and CAN alter DNA. Depending on the soil type and runoff, leaching, they can also contaminate rivers streams and artesian waters.
Nicotinamides are very persistent; some soils have shown traces up to two years and longer. Plants grown in soil contaminated by nicotinamide have shown it in their systems. As a systemic pesticide it remains in the plant material, including the fruit, seed, stalk and stem -- you know, the bits WE EAT -- including the nectar and pollen that bees need.
A wonderfully detailed article from 2001 on bees and one chemical from this family (imidacloprid) was written by an apiarist on Prince Edward Island in Canada. While it is long, it is well worth the time to read it in its entirety. One excerpt:
"[A]ll the teams of independent French scientists found that imidacloprid was toxic to honeybees in extremely tiny concentrations, down to single digit parts per billion (ppb). In fact the data from the manufacturer [Bayer] has been revised downward in just over two years so that they no longer claim that the NOEC (no observed effects concentration) is 5000 ppb, which is what they claimed at the time this insecticide was registered in Canada for potatoes, but now say it is 4 ppb....
"Couple that with the report's conclusion that imidacloprid shows significant translocation ... by water during the growing season when applied foliarly, and after the growing season when applied in furrow, and you have the reasons why this insecticide is so dangerous to bees. Bees do not visit potato flowers for either nectar or pollen. But imidacloprid is washing into the ditches and being expressed in the nectar and pollen of the goldenrod and clover there. It is also carrying over and being expressed in the crops and weeds in the years following potatoes. That is quite well known by the company. If you look at the label, you will see that they do not recommend treatments of the same field in successive years for just that reason." (emphasis added)
This same chemical is also used in spot-on application for flea treatment for your pets! I wish it were a joke, but it is true. Companies are investigating its suitability for pets. As house pets are often patted, live in our homes, and contact our furniture, bedding and rugs, this is, apart from pet health, a serious issue for humans, too.
"Mutagenic Effects: Imidacloprid may be weakly mutagenic. In a battery of 23 laboratory mutagenicity assays, imidacloprid tested negative for mutagenic effects in all but two of the assays. It did test positive for causing changes in chromosomes in human lymphocytes, as well as testing positive for genotoxicity in Chinese hamster ovary cells."
The report also found that "Imidacloprid is highly toxic to bees if used as a foliar application, especially during flowering..." (emphasis added)
A DU blogger posted a slew of links to articles on imidacloprid, noting:
"It looks like we need to ban Imidacloprid, made by Bayer, just as DDT was banned. Imidacloprid was banned in France in 2000, it is present in the nectar, lasts for years in the soil, and as little as 1.5 parts per BILLION cause the bees to lose their ability to forage!"
But, Mr Hilary Benn of the UK's Agriculture Department says he knows better.
If you know someone in the UK who cares, letters may do some good. And to all of us everywhere else, STOP using this type of product on your beloved pets IMMEDIATELY. And feel free to use this article to wake up your local politicians.
Rady Ananda contributed to this report.