UK & bee-killing pesticides

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Black bees

My assessment of the current state of UK bees follows

MPs call for precautionary ban on pesticides linked to bee decline

Pressure on the government to impose a “precautionary moratorium” on three controversial pesticides linked to the decline of bee populations will crank up a notch today, with the publication of a new report from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) criticising ministers for their “extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees”.

The report calls on the government to impose a ban on imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX, suspending their use on flowering crops attractive to pollinators. It also argues that with several of the UK’s largest garden retailers, including B&Q and Homebase, having voluntarily withdrawn neonicotinoids their shelves the government should impose a full ban on the sale of neonicotinoids for public domestic use, in order to create an “urban safe haven for pollinators”.

The report notes that France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already imposed partial bans on some neonicotinoids and criticises the government for opposing European Commission proposals for a full moratorium on imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX on all crops attractive to bees.

“Defra seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy,” said EAC chair Joan Walley in a statement. “If farmers had to pollinate fruit and vegetables without the help of insects it would cost hundreds of millions of pounds and we would all be stung by rising food prices. Defra Ministers have refused to back EU efforts to protect pollinators and can’t even come up with a convincing plan to encourage bee-friendly farming in the UK.”

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has argued that the benefits of any ban would outweigh the costs, [a mistake in editing?] insisting there is not yet sufficient evidence to impose restrictions on pesticides that are widely used across the agricultural industry.

But Walley confirmed that the EAC had reached an entirely different conclusion. “We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action, so we are calling for a moratorium on pesticides linked to bee decline to be introduced by 1 January next year,” she said. “This allows farmers to use treated seeds that have already been purchased for this growing season and gives Defra time to implement EU legislation on the sustainable use of pesticides.”

The report also criticises the behaviour of some chemicals companies, which have argued that there is not sufficient evidence of a link between the pesticides and declines in bee populations to justify a ban, but have failed to disclose full results from their research into the impact of the chemicals.

“Pesticide companies often try to pick holes in studies linking their products to bee decline, but when pushed to publish their own research and safety studies they hide behind claims of commercial sensitivity,” said Walley. “The industry must open itself to greater academic scrutiny if it wants to justify its continued opposition to the precautionary protection of pollinators.”

‘Flawed research’ leads to bee call

SCOTTISH ministers could today call on the UK government to consider a ban on pesticides linked to the deaths of billions of bees worldwide after a key environment watchdog branded official research into the issue “fundamentally flawed”.

The Scottish Government, which up until now has backed Westminster in opposing a ban on neonicotinoids, said it was now “urgently” reviewing the evidence in the light of the criticism from the UK parliament’s cross-party environmental audit committee.

Committee chair MP Joan Walley said members supported calls from the European Commission for a moratorium on using the controversial insecticides.

The UK government had commissioned a field study on bumblebees which failed to provide conclusive proof there was a major impact on the insects from the pesticides.

But the committee report concludes research was “fundamentally flawed” and should not be used as a reason for not taking action.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead last night said: “We will be reviewing this as a matter of urgency.

“If in light of this new advice the case for the EU’s precautionary measures is strong, then I would want the UK government to consider supporting this 

Current State of UK bees

So much rain last year prevented UK bees from building good stores of honey in preparation for winter.

The mild winter was hard on bees keeping them active and consuming their honey stores. A harder winter would have made less demands on stores.

The extended very cold spell this year is the third serious blow to bees. Even with sufficient stores, there was no pollen necessary to rear bees available.

Beekeepers are only starting to realise the damage sustained by bees over the winter as it now becomes warm enough for bees to start flying and to inspect hives. I expect bee colonies to have been decimated with survival over this winter in the region of 25 – 50%.

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UK politics news review

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Labour Party leader made a well-received speech at their conference at Manchester yesterday.

“They think they are born to rule.” … “Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out of touch, U-turning, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, back-of-the-envelope, miserable shower?” Miliband is here referring to class and/or private education (known in the UK by the misnomer ‘public school’) which is recognised to be much the same thing i.e. to be privately educated is to be ruling class and to be ruling class is to be privately educated[*1]. Private schools teach being ruling class, how to succeed in life by being a ***t [take your pick ;), to lie and cheat and to have an unflinching belief in your own innate superiority and righteousness.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt makes loads of money for nothing and has charged the public purse for Mandarin lessons. How do Mandarin lessons benefit his constituents or the public? Talk about benefit scroungers …

A railway omnishambles proves Miliband’s point

One of the most powerful sections of Ed Miliband’s speech came when, with remarkable fluency, he declared of the government: “Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out of touch, U-turning, pledge breaking, make it up as you go along, back-of-the-envelope, miserable shower?” Less than a day later, ministers have demonstrated exactly what he meant.

The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced that the decision to award the West Coast Main Line rail franchise to FirstGroup has been cancelled after the discovery of “significant technical flaws” in the bidding process. The government will no longer challenge the judicial review sought by Virgin, the current operator, which has long argued that the process did not adequately assess the risks of competing bids (it warned that FirstGroup’s £5.5bn bid was a recipe for bankruptcy). According to McLoughlin, the reopening of the bids will cost the taxpayer “in the region of £40m”.

How GM crops have increased the use of danger pesticides and created superweeds and toxin-resistant insects

Planting GM crops has led to an increase rather than a decrease in the use of pesticides in the last 16 years, according to US scientists.

The researchers said that the plants have caused superweeds and toxin-resistant insects to emerge, meaning farmers have not only had to use more pesticides on their crops overall, but are also using older and more dangerous chemicals.

The findings dramatically undermine the case for adopting the crops, which were sold to farmers and shoppers on the basis that they would reduce the need to be treated with powerful chemicals.


*1. This is not exclusively so. Ed Miliband attended Oxford University after his state schooling and was born to intellectual pretend-Socialist parents. While he missed out on public school, he did have the rest of the ruling class treatment. Does it make him semi ruling class or something similar? Notably, Miliband – just like his brother David – studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford. Virtually all UK prime ministers follow this course. Isn’t it strange that two brothers follow the same University course? Is there something [not] going on?

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Nick Clegg apologises for broken tuition fees election pledge

Nick Clegg apologises for tuition fees pledge

“There’s no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it and for that I am sorry. . . When we’re wrong, we hold our hands up. But when we’re right we hold our heads up too. We were right to leave the comfort of opposition to face the realities of Government and I know we are fighting for the right things.”



London bomb plotters launch appeal over ‘flawed’ forensic evidence

Four convicted over 21 July 2005 plot claim evidence that bombs were intended to cause carnage was unreliable

Four of the terrorists convicted for the 21 July 2005 bomb plot will launch an attempt to have their sentences quashed following claims by a former senior government scientist that key forensic evidence used to jail the attackers was flawed.

Evidence from Sean Doyle, the former principal scientist at the Ministry of Defence’s Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL) who was involved in the investigation into the explosive devices, is set to be submitted to the court of appeal and the Criminal Cases Review Commission by lawyers for Muktar Said Ibrahim, Yassin Oma and Ramzi Mohammed. They were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in July 2007 for trying to cause carnage on the London transport system.

Their failed attack came two weeks after four suicide bombers murdered 52 people on London’s transport network on 7 July 2005. Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, who pleaded guilty on the lesser charge of conspiracy to cause an explosion, is also seeking to have his conviction overturned.

Doyle alleges that scientific evidence submitted in the original trial that the bombs were intended to cause carnage was unreliable. Lawyers for the men claim that concerns about that evidence should have been disclosed to the court as it went to the heart of the prosecution case. Failure to do so was an abuse of process that should have caused the proceedings against the defendants to be stayed, they say.

The bombs failed to detonate properly and the terrorists’ defence was that the chapati flour and bleach in their rucksack explosives were deliberately mixed to ensure there was no harm caused. They said the attack was “an elaborate hoax designed to protest against and draw attention to Britain’s role in the attack upon and occupation of Iraq”.


The silence of the bees: government refuses to act on pesticide evidence

The bee fiasco began in March with the publication of two studies in Science. The first found that bees consuming one pesticide suffered an 85% loss in the number of queens their nests produced, while the second showed a doubling in “disappeared” bees, those that failed to return from food foraging trips. The work was the first to be carried out in realistic, open-air conditions and used levels of neonicotinoids found in fields.

Professor Mickaël Henry, at INRA in Avignon, France, who led the “disappeared” bees study was under no illusion about the implications of his findings: “Under the effects we saw from the pesticides, the population size would decline disastrously, and make them even more sensitive to parasites or a lack of food.” He said current regulation was inadequate.

These high profile studies – and others – prompted the UK’s environment ministry (Defra) to investigate. “It is appropriate to update the process for assessing the risks of pesticides to bees in the light of scientific developments – including the latest research,” it stated.

Now, six months on, it has delivered its verdict: “The recent studies do not justify changing existing regulation.” How can this be? Defra states:

The studies were interesting but they either used neonicotinoids at a higher level than is currently permitted, or the studies weren’t carried out under field conditions. The studies did not show that currently permitted uses of neonicotinoids have serious implications for the health of bee populations.

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Cable on collision course with Tory ministers

Vince Cable put himself on a collision course with his new ministerial colleague yesterday as he firmly ruled out Tory calls to make it easier for employers to sack staff and defended Liberal Democrat plans for a “wealth tax”.

He sought to assert his authority as Business Secretary over his Tory ministers after David Cameron appointed his close ally Michael Fallon to the department in last week’s reshuffle – with an instruction to act as a champion for industry.

Mr Cable set himself in opposition to Mr Fallon over the Tories’ support for “no-fault dismissal”, under which small companies would be allowed to sack staff without explanation. He made clear he was in charge of employment policy and added: “There is job insecurity: we don’t want to add to it.”

In a newspaper interview yesterday, Mr Fallon criticised the Liberal Democrats’ proposal for extra tax on the wealthy. But the Business Secretary told The Andrew Marr Show there was still massive inequality in Britain and said: “Wealthy people could contribute more.”

No ban on pesticides that ‘threaten bees’


Nerve-agent pesticides should not be banned in Britain despite four separate scientific studies strongly linking them to sharp declines in bees around the world, Government scientists have advised.

An internal review of recent research on neonicotinoids – pesticides that act on insects’ central nervous systems and are increasingly blamed for problems with bee colonies – has concluded that no change is needed in British regulation.

The British position contrasts sharply with that of France, which in June banned one of the pesticides, thiamethoxam, made by the Swiss chemicals giant Syngenta. French scientists said it was impairing the abilities of honey-bees to find their way back to their nests. The Green MP Caroline Lucas described the British attitude as one of “astonishing complacency”.

Concern is growing around the world that the chemicals may affect the ability of bees to pollinate crops, something that would have catastrophic consequences for agriculture. Bee pollination has been valued at £200m per year in Britain and £128bn worldwide.

The French research was published in March in the journal Science at the same time as another study by British researchers from the University of Stirling, implicating neonicotinoids in the decline of bumblebees. The British team showed that production of queens, essential for bumblebee colonies to continue, declined by 85 per cent after they were exposed to “field-realistic levels” of another neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, made by the German company Bayer.

In January, the US government’s chief bee researcher published a study showing that imidacloprid makes honeybees far more susceptible to disease, even at doses so low as to be barely detectable. And in April, a team from Harvard claimed to show that imidacloprid was the culprit in colony collapse disorder, in which bees abandon their hives en masse.

All four of these studies have been the subject of a British Government review ordered by Sir Robert Watson, chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – which has concluded that no action needs to be taken against the chemicals concerned.


27/11/13 Having received a takedown notice from the Independent newspaper for a different posting, I have reviewed this article which links to an article at the Independent’s website in order to attempt to ensure conformance with copyright laws.

I consider this posting to comply with copyright laws since
a. Only a small portion of the original article has been quoted satisfying the fair use criteria, and / or
b. This posting satisfies the requirements of a derivative work.

Please be assured that this blog is a non-commercial blog (weblog) which does not feature advertising and has not ever produced any income.


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Pesticides kill bees

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Neonicotinoid pesticides are shown to poison bees. While this study was concerned with bumblebees it is likely that the findings are also relevant to honeybees and similar insects.

The point about pesticides is that they are poisons. Neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic pesticides that affect the whole plant including nectar and pollen.

image of black bees
Black bees


Insecticide blamed for bee deaths by Stirling University study

Use of a specific group of insecticides is having a serious impact on bumblebee populations, according to a team of Scottish scientists.

The Stirling University researchers found exposure even to low levels of neonicotinoid pesticides had a serious impact on the health of bumblebees.

Bee populations have fallen sharply, and scientists say urgent action is needed to reverse the decline.

Of particular concern is an 85% drop in the number of queens.

That means 85% fewer nests in the following year.

The research found bumblebee colony growth slowed after exposure to the chemicals.

This may partly be to blame for colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon which has hit large numbers of hives in Europe and North America in recent years.

Professor Dave Goulson, who led the Stirling research, said: “Some bumblebee species have declined hugely. For example in North America, several bumblebee species which used to be common have more or less disappeared from the entire continent. In the UK, three species have gone extinct.

“Bumblebees pollinate many of our crops and wild flowers. The use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops clearly poses a threat to their health, and urgently needs to be re-evaluated.”

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