Pollinators And Pesticides -
UK Environmental Audit Committee Report Published

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) launched an inquiry into pollinators and pesticides, particularly in relation to neonicotinoids.

The EC is a UK Select Committee, and can be very influential, because it puts a lot of pressure on the government.  The committee comprises members across the political parties too.

However, I believe the government does have 8 weeks to respond.  See this video for more information:



EAC on pollinators and pesticides

Here are some key snippets I have taken from the report :

On Neonicotinoids:

  • Defra should prepare to introduce a moratorium in the UK on the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam on crops that are attractive to bees by 1 January 2014, and support such a proposal in the EU. (Paragraph 81)
  • Defra must immediately withdraw the approvals for use in the UK of neonicotinoid pesticides marketed for amateur application in private gardens and on amenities in order to create neonicotinoid-free zones for pollinators in non-agricultural areas. (Paragraph 84)

On DEFRA’s attitude to the Precautionary Principle:

  • Defra's application of the precautionary principle involves economic factors becoming entangled with environmental decision making, which not only contradicts Defra's stated commitment to the precautionary principle, but risks overlooking the significant economic value of insect pollinators to UK agriculture.

    Defra should prepare to introduce a moratorium in the UK on the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam by 1 January 2014, and support such a proposal in the EU.

  • Defra must review how it exercises the precautionary principle. Economic considerations should not form part of environmental risk management decision making, but rather should be a function of a distinct and transparent subsequent political process. (Paragraph 69)

  • Defra policy on pesticides must be evidence-based. Where the available scientific evidence is either incomplete or contradictory, Defra must apply the precautionary principle rather than maintaining the status quo while waiting for further evidence.

On the lack of transparency in the testing of pesticides and industry data:

  • The agrochemical industry should place the results of its risk assessment trials in the public domain to inform academic research and increase transparency for the public.
    Defra should work with industry and academics to establish which, if any, genuinely commercially sensitive details should be redacted to make that possible.

On the scrutinising of pesticide data:

  • For Governments, scientists and the public to have confidence in the EU-wide pesticide approvals regime, data and analysis should be rigorously scrutinised and quality checked to form a credible evidence base. The 2006 re-approval of imidacloprid for use in the EU shows two flaws in the system.

    First, EFSA identified the issue of soil accumulation in its peer review, but the European Commission proceeded to sign off imidacloprid as an approved active substance for use in Member States without explicitly addressing that risk.

    There seems little point in EFSA's assessing risk if the Commission ignores environmental threats identified in that process.

    Secondly, the choice of Germany as the Rapporteur Member State in the case of a substance developed and manufactured in Germany raised a potential conflict of interest. (Paragraph 39)

On the monitoring of insect pollinators:

  • The available evidence indicates that wild insect pollinators, such as hoverflies, moths, midges, butterflies and wild bees, are experiencing serious population declines, but there is insufficient data to be precise about the extent of such declines due to inadequate monitoring.

    Defra must introduce a national monitoring programme to generate and monitor population data on a broad range of wild insect pollinator species to inform policy making.


On pollinators and pesticides laboratory tests, and the recent flawed FERA test – see FERA betray bees again

  • The Henry, Whitehorn and Gill laboratory studies raised serious concerns about the potential effect of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees. While laboratory studies should as far as possible replicate field conditions, they cannot by their nature do so precisely.

    One of their virtues, however, is that they take place in controlled conditions.

    The FERA bumble bee study, which Defra commissioned to test the conclusions of the laboratory studies in the field, was, we conclude, fundamentally flawed because the bees were placed outside on different dates, some colonies had a lower starting mass than others and a different neonicotinoid from the one used in the study was present in the 'unexposed' hives.

    The FERA bumble bee study is not therefore a compelling basis for inaction. (Paragraph 51)

Farming does not need neonicotinoids:

  • Neonicotinoid pesticides are not fundamental to the general economic or agricultural viability of UK farming, although there may be specific issues in relation to oilseed rape that might require careful management if neonicotinoids were not available to growers. (Paragraph 68)

On pollinators and pesticides (neonicotinoids) for amenity use:

  • There is no compelling economic or agricultural case for neonicotinoid use in private gardens and on amenities such as golf courses, which provides Defra with an opportunity to exercise its stated commitment to the precautionary principle. (Paragraph 84)

Go from Pollinators and Pesticides and explore these links:

What can product patents tell us about the potential danger of pesticides to non-target insects?

What can company marketing literature aimed at selling pest products, tell us and do they indicate potential danger to other insects?