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article imageU.S. government concludes neonicotinoids harm bees

By Tim Sandle     Jan 14, 2016 in Environment
The U.S. government has noted that the most widely used pesticide in the world is harmful to honeybees. However, in Europe, a ban on the use of the chemical could be lifted.
In the U.S., the results of field trials, conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), show that a common neonicotinoid called imidacloprid leads to hive populations declining. The study showed when the pesticide was used at the lower end of the spectrum, around 25 parts per billion in the nectar and pollen of the plants, it was sufficient enough to cause a reduction in the hive population. It is thought the chemical affects certain parts of the bee’s brain where sensory information related to orientation is stored.
Speaking with The Guardian, Jim Jones, the EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention noted: “This is a pretty big step forward in increasing our understanding of the potential for imidacloprids to impact colony health.”
Neonicotinoid pesticides are controversial products, given the scientific evidence concerning the impact on pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies. The subject has been featured by Digital Journal several times over the past few years. The pesticides are currently banned in most parts of the European Union. Here the U.K. has opted out and permits the use of the pesticides in selected farms. The intended use here is to kill aphids; however, many biologists are concerned about the impact on bee populations.
With the European Union situation, European Food Safety Authority has commenced a review that could lead to the ending of the ban in relation to three neonicotinoid pesticides. The pesticides being considered are thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid. These pesticides are made by companies like Bayer Crop Science.
Central to the review will be whether or not bees are affected. The plight of bees is very serious. In Europe, more than a quarter of Europe’s bumblebees and one in 10 of all honeybees faces extinction.
Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU’s food policy director, is concerned about the outcome, especially if there is a relaxation in the advice about pesticide use. Speaking with The Guardian, Achterberg noted: “The pesticides industry has lobbied hard for these standards to be rejected. But the EU has a legal mandate to protect bees from harmful pesticides, and a solid risk assessment is the basis for that.”
The outcome of the review is expected within the next few weeks.
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