"Case to answer" on neonicotinoids and bees

Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has today (Wednesday) called for greater research into the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees and lambasted some colleagues for swallowing lobbying propaganda and using scientific doubt as an excuse for inaction.

The call came in a packed committee meeting in Brussels, attended by European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Safety, Tonio Borg.

The meeting heard a presentation from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) on their study into the the risks to bees from neonicotinoids, acknowledging that there are threats to pollinators from these chemicals, though highlighting gaps in the evidence and that there remains some scientific dispute over the technical issues.

Alyn said:

"There are two bad lines of argument used on this issue. On the one hand, 'we need more data before we act' could keep us in stasis for a million years, but on the other, the 'precautionary principle' could be used as justification for not getting out of bed in the morning!

"It is up to us as legislators to make a call on the balance of the evidence available proportionate to the scale of the risks involved, and I've been concerned to see some MEPs parroting what is in effect lobbying propaganda as if it were gospel handed down on tablets of stone.

"I have been saying this for some time: the worrying decline in bee numbers is, at least in part, caused by toxic chemicals sprayed on our fields.  I simply do not see how any other conclusion is possible based on the evidence available, not least after the EFSA study found clear links between the use of the chemicals and damage to bees.

"I back the European Commission's proposals for a partial ban on the most risky uses of these chemicals, but I also want to see a lot more research and if we're proven to be over-cautious then we can relax the ban.

"The potential consequences for agriculture, food and humankind of a continuing collapse in pollinators are stark.  In any objective discussion there is always room for doubt but the more credible data is clear, there is a case to answer and there is a need to act."