Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Bees and lobbying over neonicotinoids >>> crunchtime: Wednesday 4th May

Climate change is having a clear effect on wildlife:
Futures Forum: Climate change: risks & opportunities for species in England

Which, in turn, is affecting the food chain:
Futures Forum: "Britain's wildlife is in an increasingly fragile state, putting food production in jeopardy"

And at the same time, the chemicals we use to grow food are impacting on wildlife:
Futures Forum: Neonicotinoids are bad for butterflies >>> What can we do?
Futures Forum: Neonicotinoids are bad for bees >>> What can we do?

The controversial pesticides are neonicotinoids:
Futures Forum: Bees and pesticides: withdrawl of neonicotinoid

But research is still being carried out:
Futures Forum: Bees and pesticides: the research ... and the need for more research
Futures Forum: What is causing the decline in pollinating insects?

And now the pressure is on to come up with the 'science'.

From the traditional farming industry:
Study shows not all neonic seed treatments harm bees - Farmers Weekly
Farming UK News - Bees exposed to more pesticides from contaminated wildflowers nearby treated farms suggests new data
New Study Claims Neonicotinoid Pesticides Really Do Help Soybean Yields - Modern Farmer
EU-banned pesticide 'does not harm bumblebee colonies', new report suggests - Chronicle Live
Some banned pesticides due to bumble bee risk don't actually harm colonies | Western Daily Press

Because the farming industry are not happy about the current ban:
NFU applies for emergency neonicotinoid ban exemption - Farmers Weekly

The lobbying is increasing on all sides before a meeting tomorrow:

38 Degrees Logo

The clock is ticking to defend our bees. Tomorrow, government advisors could tell Liz Truss, our environment minister, to let bee-killing pesticides back on some of our fields this summer. [1] It could spell disaster for our hard-working bees, who pollinate thousands of types of crops and flowers. [2] Our bees are the backbone of British farming.

So at the same time as Liz Truss hears the advice tomorrow, she needs to feel the pressure to protect our bees from 38 Degrees members. Imagine Liz Truss sitting at her desk, and just as the advisors’ report gets delivered, our petition is also slapped down on her desk. Together, we’ll have our voices in the room as she’s mulling over the decision.
Last year, we lost because we were caught off guard. Toxic pesticide companies snuck in their application to lift the ban under our noses. Hundreds of thousands of us put up a good fight, but we couldn’t catch up before the decision was made. [3]

That’s why this year, we’ve got a head start on their sneaky tactics. Already, 220,000 of us have signed the petition. Thousands of us are also emailing, tweeting, and meeting with our MPs.


[1] A group of scientists form the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides. It’s their job to assess any applications to lift the ban on bee-killing pesticides and make a recommendation to the government. Their next meeting is tomorrow on the 4th May.
Gov.uk: UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP): May 2016 Meeting Agenda:

[2] The pesticides, called neonicotinoids, are banned across Europe because they’re responsible for killing our bees. Here’s just a selection of articles that show recent evidence of how these pesticides harm our bees:

Bumblebees left 'confused' by pesticides on their favourite wild flowers - Mirror Online
Pesticides linked to bee decline for first time in a countrywide field study | Environment | The Guardian
Stinging verdict on bee-killers - Telegraph

[3] 38 Degrees: Government approves bee-killing pesticides: press release:
Government approves bee-killing pesticides: press release - 38 Degrees

Keep bee-killing pesticides off our fields this year

Industry Lobbyists Accused of Scaremongering Over Ban on Bee-Harming Pesticides

Big Ag warned that the U.K. ban would doom crops, but yields have actually flourished.

By Lawrence Carter / Greenpeace Energydesk
May 2, 2016

Close up of bee in a beehive on honeycomb
Photo Credit: Shaiith/Shutterstock

Industry predictions of doomed crops resulting from a ban on a controversial pesticide in the United Kingdom have been dismissed as scaremongering, after official data revealed that yields have actually flourished since the ban.

Pesticide producers and the National Farmers Union (NFU) had warned that a ban on neonicotinoids, a substance linked with declining bee populations, would have a devastating impact on crop yields.

But government figures show that yields of oilseed rape have actually increased significantly since the ban came into force, leading campaigners to label the industry’s predictions as a “particularly bad example of scaremongering”.

Defra’s latest statistics show that last year, yields of oilseed rape increased by 7%, despite restrictions on treating the crop with neonicotinoids.

Elsewhere the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board noted that 2015 oilseed rape yields were higher than the average for the last decade.

Responding to the figures, Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said: “‘This is a particularly bad example of scaremongering by the pesticide industry. Every time a pesticide is found to be a real danger to wildlife or human health, and people rightly start to call for the chemical to be banned, pesticide companies and their representatives claim that farmers will lose their crops.”

“Every single one of these predictions have proved completely wrong,” he said, adding, “you can also be sure that this won’t stop them making these absurd claims in future.”

The news comes as the NFU revealed it has applied to Defra to partially lift the ban on using neonicotinoids for oilseed rape.

The union is pushing to be allowed to use the pesticide in selected areas of Britain, arguing that farmers’ crops will suffer without it.

But Greenpeace can reveal that lobbyists for neonicotinoids have consistently overstated the impact a ban would have on farmers, placing enormous pressure on Defra to oppose restrictions.

In December 2012, Syngenta wrote to then environment secretary, Owen Paterson, to warn that a ban would devastate yields of crops such as oilseed rape by up to 40%.

The figure was based on a Bayer and Syngenta funded study by the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, an industry-backed think tank, which also estimated a ban would cost the UK economy £630 million a year [$925 million].

The conclusions of the study were dismissed by MPs from the Environmental Audit select committee in March 2013.

Syngenta, which has lost tens of millions of dollars annually due to the European ban, also issued a warning to the government over its investment in the UK, reminding Owen Paterson, that:

“Syngenta invests approximately £250 million [$367 million] annually in the UK in R&D, manufacturing and our commercial organisations employing more than 2,000 people. We do this because of the Government’s strong support for technology in agriculture and an evidence based approach to regulation. I therefore call on you to resist any attempt to force a quick decision on restricting this technology”.

A month later, the NFU told Paterson that the ban “would also impact on yields, seriously compromising the sustainable production of many EU crops.” It had previously warned Defra that “a ban would result in a significant reduction in yields”.

Paterson agreed, replying that: “Although there are uncertainties, Defra’s assessment suggests that it is highly probable that restrictions on neonicotinoids would carry significant costs for agriculture.”

Defra’s May 2013 impact assessment, which was released following a freedom of information request, estimated that yields would decrease by 26% over a ten year period and cost the UK economy up to £1.2 billion [$1.76 billion].

Greenpeace has submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for Defra’s latest assessment of the impact of the ban.

When contacted for comment a Syngenta spokesperson said: “As any grower knows, one season’s data is unlikely to be enough to assess the full impact of the neonicotinoid restriction but what we do know is that where cabbage flea beetle pressure was high their crops were severely damaged. On the other hand, the available data suggests that there has been no improvement in bee health since the restriction came into force.”

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “The NFU was pleased to see the high yields experienced by many UK growers in 2015. Met office figures show higher than average sunshine levels in the key growing months of April and June in 2015. This contributed to favourable growing conditions and indeed resulted in high yields in some oilseed rape crops. Higher than average yields in 2015 have masked huge yield variability between fields ‎of oilseed rape.”

“The figures do not take into account the fact that some fields of oilseed rape had to be abandoned due to overwhelming pressure from cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB)‎. These fields produced nothing and, according to research published by Fera, CSFB numbers have been increasing since restrictions were imposed on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments by the European Commission in 2013. It would be wrong to conclude, therefore, that last year’s yields somehow prove that UK growers did not miss or need neonicotinoid seed dressings”, he said.

But according to the Soil Association: “The evidence we have so far shows that almost all use of neonicotinoids is unnecessary. These highly toxic and dangerous chemicals are being used prophylactically—almost all seeds of some of our most widely grown crops, like wheat, barley and oilseed rape, are automatically treated with these nicotine-based nerve agents.”

“In most years, for most crops, this is completely unnecessary. Such prophylactic use of dangerous chemicals is in theory outlawed under EU Pesticides Regulations."

Lawrence Carter is an investigative reporter for Greenpeace UK. Follow him on Twitter @lawrencecarter1.

Industry Lobbyists Accused of Scaremongering Over Ban on Bee-Harming Pesticides | Alternet

See also:
Futures Forum: Bees
Futures Forum: Challenging toxic chemicals on the farm >>> the award-winning documentary 'The Real Dirt on Farmer John' >>> Bridport: Saturday 13th June

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