Unpublished field trials by pesticide manufacturers show their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels, leading to calls from senior scientists for the companies to end the secrecy which cloaks much of their research.
The research, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency and obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request.
Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides and there is clear scientific evidence that they harm bees at the levels found in fields, though only a little to date showing the pesticides harm the overall performance of colonies. Neonicotinoids were banned from use on flowering crops in the EU in 2013, despite UK opposition.
Bees and other insects are vital for pollinating three-quarters of the world’s food crops but have been in significant decline, due to the loss of flower-rich habitats, disease and the use of pesticides.
The newly revealed studies show Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin seriously harmed colonies at high doses, but did not find significant effects below concentrations of 50 parts per billion (ppb) and 40ppb respectively. Such levels can sometimes be found in fields but concentrations are usually below 10ppb.
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Science paper recommended ways of identifying hormone-mimicking chemicals in pesticides linked to foetal abnormalities, genital mutations, infertility and other diseases including cancer
As many as 31 pesticides with a value running into billions of pounds could have been banned because of potential health risks, if a blocked EU paper on hormone-mimicking chemicals had been acted upon, the Guardian has learned.
The science paper, seen by the Guardian, recommends ways of identifying and categorising the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that scientists link to a rise in foetal abnormalities, genital mutations, infertility, and adverse health effects ranging from cancer to IQ loss.
Commission sources say that the paper was buried by top EU officials under pressure from big chemical firms which use EDCs in toiletries, plastics and cosmetics, despite an annual health cost that studies peg at hundreds of millions of euros.
The unpublished EU paper says that the risks associated with exposure to even low-potency EDCs is so great that potency alone should not serve as a basis for chemicals being approved for use. Its proposed criteria for categorisations of EDCs – along with a strategy for implementing them – was supposed to have enabled EU bans of hazardous substances to take place last year.
But commission officials say that under pressure from major chemical industry players, such as Bayer and BASF, the criteria were blocked. In their place, less stringent options emerged, along with a plan for an impact assessment that is not expected to be finalised until 2016.
“We were ready to go with the criteria and a strategy proposal as well but we we were told to forget about it by the secretary general’s office,” a commission source told the Guardian. “Effectively the criteria were suppressed. We allowed the biocides and pesticides legislation to roll over.”
Continue reading “Suppressed EU Report Could Have Banned 31 Pesticides”