As we reported to BBKA members in May 2013, The European Commission published the Implementing Regulation to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. It is Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 485/2013 of 24 May 2013 and was published in the Official Journal on 25 May 2013. Its full title is ‘Amending Regulation (EU) No 540/2011 as regards the condition of approval of the active substances Clothianadin, Thiomethoxam and Imidacloprid and prohibiting the use and sale of seeds treated with plant protection products containing these active substances’.

Again as we reported to members, the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) commissioned work by the Centre of Hydrology and Ecology (CEH) into 'The impacts of neonicotinoids on honeybees'

Deadline Delayed 

This 2 year large scale study in three EU countries that was due to report in summer 2016 is currently being peer reviewed.  The EFSA report which will incorporate work from this study has also been delayed, and having been expected in January 2017 will now report in November 2017.  The EFSA, which guides EU policymakers, stated that the deadline extension was “deemed to be necessary in order to finalise the review assessments and the related conclusions”

BBKA delegates vote

At its 2015 Annual Delegate’s Meeting the following proposition was approved ‘That, until there is convincing independent scientific evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides are not harmful to honeybees, the BBKA will support the continuation of the EU moratorium on their use’.

Other studies 

In the intervening period since the ban was put in place, a number of studies have been published, with a wide range of funders ranging from environmental pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth through to the Crop Protection Association Studies have variously shown:

  • that there has been a considerable economic impact as a result of the ban
  • that insect diversity is being reduced as a result of the use of neonicotinoids.

Examples include this study funded by the Industry which states:

'Without the ban on neonicotinoids, 912,000 tonnes of OSR would have been produced more in the EU'.....'Thus the total annual market revenue losses following the ban on neonicotinoids for the European Union as a whole and oil seed rape production amount to around 400 Million EUR.'

A study primarily looking at wild bee populations published in August 2016 by the CEH found that 'we found substantial evidence for negative impacts of neonicotinoids on wild bees.'

It did however conclude 'While the evidence presented here shows that neonicotinoids were a contributing factor leading to reduced population persistence it is unlikely that its effects would act in isolation of other environmental pressures' 

Other Pesticides 

The  BBKA understands that it is often necessary for farmers to control insect pests with chemicals.  We are concerned by comments in relation to pyrethroids and in particular remarks that this class of pesticides may also be considered for a ban.

We think it important that not only is the safety of the chemical being considered for a ban looked at, but also the risks to honeybees associated with the likely chemicals that farmers may use if these classes were to be banned.

Current BBKA position

The BBKA has sympathy with the farming community who have seen some increased costs / decreased yields (however large or small) and also has sympathy with environmental pressure groups who seek to move us away from the model of intensive agriculture that exists in the UK today. However we seek to support a healthy population of honey bees in the UK and to educate the public as to the benefits of these industrious insects. 

Waiting for CEH results 

The EU is funding extensive research into the effects of these pesticides on honey bees and decided to ban them in the intervening period.  The BBKA considers that there has not been any evidence of significance published since the ban was put in place that argues that it should be lifted until the results of this funded research are published.  As and when this evidence is published the BBKA would expect to review both it and the recommendations of the EFSA and advise our members accordingly.

For further details contact

Dr Ivor Davis BBKA Public Affairs spokesperson [email protected]

Martin Smith BBKA Public Affairs spokesperson [email protected]

V3 14th March 2017