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Neonicotinoid ban cost UK farmers $33 million, yet no evidence it saves bees

| | November 11, 2015

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Since December 2013, the EU has banned the use of three types of neonicotinoid pesticides, believing — thanks to a number of studies — that they were responsible for large-scale honeybee demise.

Unfortunately, there was no system put in place to assess whether the ban would have a measurable impact on honeybee populations. A pan-European study on honeybee mortality covering the years 2012 to 2014 was conducted, but wasn’t designed to determine to what extent pesticide use vs other factors was the cause of bee mortality.

That said, there was a noticeable decrease in overwintering colony mortality rates in 2013 to 2014 across Europe as compared with 2012 to 2013, but in some areas, the mortality rate remains high.

“The only conclusion you could draw from this [pan-European] study is that it is not pesticides alone [that is responsible for bee deaths],” a representative of the European Commission tells Modern Farmer in an email. (We were asked to not specifically name this rep.)

Related article:  Neonicotinoid seed treatments 'best option' for soil pests, but should be used judiciously, study says

To make matters even more confusing, the UK partially lifted the ban on two neonicotinoids this past July for 120 days. The National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales (NFU) had earlier done an “emergency application” of the chemicals on rapeseed crops there.

According to Rural Business Research, the ban has forced UK farmers to use alternate chemicals to fight off cabbage stem flea beetle, a major crop pest of rapeseed. The RBR study stated that the financial costs to farmers was nearly £22 million ($33 million U.S.) for alternative pesticide use, lost crops, and replanting costs.

The EU’s ban is up for review at the end of the year. Hopefully, the European Commission will dig deeper into bee mortality and land on a more definitive explanation for their diminished numbers.

Read full, original post: Ban of Neonicotinoids in UK Cost Farmers Millions

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