Dr Ju­lian Lit­tle, Crop Sci­ence Bayer UK

Gardeners' World - - Debate -

“Neon­ics were first in­tro­duced as seed treat­ments to pro­tect crops such as oilseed rape, ce­real and su­gar beet, from dam­ag­ing in­sects and the dis­eases that they carry. They were very safe to farm­ers com­pared to the prod­ucts that they re­placed, such as organochlo­rines and car­ba­mates. They are ap­plied to the seed be­fore plant­ing and there­fore only con­trol in­sects that eat the plant, mak­ing them a more tar­geted ap­proach to con­trol­ling pests than spray­ing a whole field with an in­sec­ti­cide such as a pyrethroid. The re­sults of the CEH study were per­plex­ing since, although some small neg­a­tive ef­fects of

neon­ics were seen on hon­ey­bees in the UK, those for­ag­ing on treated oilseed rape in Ger­many ac­tu­ally fared bet­ter than those on un­treated plants. No re­al­is­tic ex­pla­na­tion for this has yet been given. The data on the ef­fect of treat­ments on wild bee pop­u­la­tions is equally mixed. The pa­per in Sci­ence magazine sug­gests that sta­tis­ti­cal ef­fects could be seen, but even a cur­sory look at the graphs shows that in the UK, the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of neon­ics in bees’ nests has no ef­fect on the vi­a­bil­ity of the nest nor on queen pro­duc­tion.† In­sec­ti­cides are used by farm­ers try­ing to grow safe, qual­ity food, and gar­den­ers in their al­lot­ment or in their gar­dens. They are used for a rea­son. In the case of oilseed rape, it has been in­creas­ing dif­fi­cult to grow the crop be­cause of in­sect dam­age, to the point that one in four fields has dis­ap­peared in Eng­land since the 2013 ban on neonic use came into force. This is bad news for farm­ers and bad news for pol­li­nat­ing in­sects that use oilseed rape as a food source. Fi­nally, it is worth not­ing that ac­cord­ing to EU data, since the in­tro­duc­tion of neon­ics in the 1990s, the num­bers of bee hives in Europe have ac­tu­ally gone up from around 11 mil­lion hives to over 15 mil­lion in 2016.” • Dr Ju­lian Lit­tle is Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs at Crop Sci­ence, Bayer UK

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