Sunday, 26 May 2013

Use of chemicals in Agriculture; how much is necessary.

Despite the fact that bee numbers are declining at an alarming rate, the UK government has tried to scupper the implementation of a two year ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. Research by scientists over recent years has found that the exposure of bees to neonicotinoids has been having a lethal effect on pollinators.

   The obstructive efforts by the British government hasn't prevented the European Union from introducing a two-year partial ban on neonicotinoids.. For more information see "Hive Mind:Talking with the man who may save Europe's Bees" by Aaron Gertler. This is an interview with Dave Goulson, a Professor of Biological Sciences and a conservationist. (Bumblebee Conservation Trust).

The way that bee numbers are declining is an indicator( that not even governments can continue to ignore), of the effect of agricultural chemicals on the vital ecology which our food production depends upon. The temporary ban of neonicotinoids is a step in the right direction but this is only a small part of the picture. Biologists and environmentalists have also expressed deep concern over the mix of pesticides that are being used in agriculture, otherwise referred to as the 'cocktail effect'.(for more info see Although individual chemicals are put through a degree of testing, little is known about the effect of the combinations of chemicals which are used in farming.

Over use of weedkiller.
All this is an urgent problem not just in Britain. Defra insists that farmers are doing a lot to create buffer zones for forage and habitat for wildlife and bees.This is good of course, but old habits die hard in intensive agriculture; I am referring to the practice of some farmers of spraying herbicides along those public rights of way which run through crops. This is unneccesary and surely against coshh regulations.

Another practice which seems lazy and unnecessary is the use of weedkiller along field edges and underneath orchard trees. Again not all farmers do this, so I assume it is just a quick but environmentally damaging way of keeping things under control.

To be fair to farmers, the overuse of weedkiller is also a sad fact in domestic gardens. eg spraying dandelions when a trowel would be a far better solution; I expect most people have seen the advert for a certain product on television. Considering everything, this is totally crazy.Many 'weeds' provide excellent food for bees.

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