Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Honeybees,Defra dithers, and denies, denies, denies.

Top picture-neonicotinoid chemical structure and honeybees.
Second picture-organophosphate chemical structure and honeybees.



The bee die-off has become critical, and after a long period of complacency Defra has at last committed £4.3 million to “safeguard and undertake more research into the health of bees.” Despite this Defra still prefers to stress abnormally wet weather, coupled with the fungus Nosema as being the cause of bee deaths.
Whilst some private companies and beekeepers in Europe are making efforts to address the causes of the alarming bee decline, Defra continues to avoid the issue of pesticides.

Simon Press, the Co-op group senior technical manager, said that “We believe that the recent losses in bee populations need definitive action and as a result are temporarily prohibiting the eight neonicotinoid pesticides until we have evidence that refutes their involvement in the decline." Elliot Carnell, coordinator of Pesticide Action Network, said that the government had failed to recognize that “pesticides could be a contributing factor in the honeybees dramatic decline.” He claims "the government has fought against any attempts to protect bees which pollinate a third of the average diet.”

Last year the president of UNAAPI (the Union of Italian Beekeepers) claimed that a group of comparatively new pesticides, the neonicotinoids, were killing the bees. He said “These substances were irresponsibly authorised by public powers that bowed to pressure from the chemical industry.” (It is worth noting here that Italian beekeepers might feel less inhibited about criticizing their government than our beekeepers might criticise Defra, because they receive no type of aid from the State or the EU.)

A number of studies have linked neocotinoids to die-offs in bee colonies and also found that they are responsible for a breakdown of their navigational abilities. Germany banned the use of all neonicotinoid-based pesticides last year, and France imposed strict limits on their use on bee crops following mass die-offs in the 1990’s.

Despite these problems and the proven link between pesticides and bee deaths, Defra recently opposed the European Commission’s new rules to ban 15 percent of the most hazardous pesticides. Defra secretary of state Hilary Benn has confirmed that the government would be voting against the new pesticide rules when they come before the Agricultural Council for final agreement in March or April.

The president of the Union of Italian Beekeepers reference to pesticides- “These substances were irresponsibly authorized by public powers that bowed to the pressure from the chemical industry.” –could equally accurately be applied to the British government.

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