Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has today reiterated his call for a precautionary ban on neonicotinoid pesticides after the publication of a risk assessment by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) which acknowledged that there are threats to pollinators from neonicotinoids.
Today's conclusions by EFSA were reached on the basis of the evaluation of various studies submitted to them, however the report’s authors conceded there were ‘gaps’ in the evidence. While the report found a ‘high risk was indicated or could not be excluded’ in relation to the risk to honey bees, in some cases ‘it was possible to identify a low risk’ for some of the authorised uses.
Bees pollinate 90% of the world's commercial plants. More than 240 million acres of crops in America are treated with neonicotinoids.
"This news vindicates what I have been saying for some time: that the worrying decline in bee numbers is, at least in part, caused by toxic chemicals sprayed on our fields. What is most worrying in this instance is just how lax the European authorities have been in acknowledging the possibility and testing their risk assessment procedures.
"Today's publication just adds more weight to the calls for greater, more in-depth and longer-term research into the impact of neonicotinoids on our pollinators. We in Scotland are well placed to help with this. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust at Stirling University has an impressive track record in research and can contribute to the understanding of this complex area. The Scottish Government also has an ambitious honeybee recovery plan and we need to see similar projects rolled out across the EU to stop further decline in our bee numbers.
"EFSA need to ask some serious questions about how these pesticides have ever been allowed on the market without proper analysis of their long term effects on bee populations. There should be tough pre-authorisation procedures which assess every eventuality for animal health and the environment, and in the case of neonicotinoids it is becoming clearer and clearer that these have not been done thoroughly enough.
"Considering some of the recent reports of EFSA and links to big business, reports like this one from today do not fill me with confidence in the processes currently in place. If we need a complete overhaul in the way that EFSA operates then we should not be cautious in demanding one."
For the EFSA risk assessment, please see http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/3068.htm