'Neonicotinoids do not affect bee populations' - Syngenta
EXPERTS from agro-chemical firm Syngenta will give evidence today (Wednesday) at a parliamentary hearing on the use and effects of neonicotinoids.
The UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee started taking evidence at the beginning of the month and yesterday (Tuesday) heard from the Soil Association, Pesticide Action Network and Buglife.
The hearing was called to scrutinise Defra’s decision not to revise its pesticide regulation or follow other European countries and temporarily suspend the use of some insecticides.
Campaigners argue there is evidence to suggest the chemicals have caused a ‘significant’ decline in bee numbers and other pollinators.
However, Syngenta said laws surrounding agro-chemicals were already ‘very rigorous’ and evidence of bee decline was not ‘field based’.
Syngenta’s head of corporate affairs in northern Europe, Luke Gibbs, said any move to ban or limit the use of neonicotinoids could have ‘serious implications’ on UK farming.
Speaking before the hearing he said: “What concerns us deeply is that this is a committee that is looking at a single variable in a multi variable issue. By looking at one factor in bee decline, they are not looking at factors such as loss of habitat and weather conditions which have impacted many insects and pollinators this year.”
Mr Gibbs said the chemicals were most commonly used to tackle pests such as aphids and flea beetles in oilseed rape.
“Alternative approaches are more difficult and carry more risk,” he added.
“They also change the economic viability of growing some of these crops.
“This is a partisan enquiry on an issue that is so serious and complex and needs to be looked at in the round if we are serious about tackling bee decline.
“It is part of the broader campaign that we see against the use of chemicals in food production.”
Sygenta said neonicotinoid seed treatments had been used safely on millions of hectares of crops across Europe without harming bee populations.
The company said many Governments including Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, shared this view ‘along with reputable universities and experts across Europe’.
Principal scientific adviser Dr Mike Bushell added: “They have not yet been swayed by individual alarmist laboratory studies, which deliberately expose bees to extremely high and unrealistic dose rates, and instead recognize that significant declines in bee health have been seen in places where neonicotinoid seed treatments are not used.”
Friends of the Earth’s policy and campaigns director, Craig Bennett, called for the chemicals to be withdrawn until ‘thorough safety tests have been completed’.
“Pesticide safety research must cover all bee species, and look at the combined effect from a cocktail of different chemicals,” he said.
“Successive ministers failed to heed warnings about the threat to our ash trees – Owen Paterson must act decisively to protect our bees.”