Pesticide industry involvement in EU risk assessment puts survival of bees at stake
2. Controversial pesticides linked to "total ecological collapse" of insects and birds - toxicologist
3. British Beekeepers' Association to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides
NOTE: While the British Beekeepers' Association's decision to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides with its logo (item 3) is welcome, note that they are not doing so right away but "as soon as practically possible" - and "the organisation has not ruled out accepting funds in the future from pesticide companies".
Also, BBKA president Martin Smith is quoted as saying: "The four products subject to BBKA endorsement are of declining commercial importance and the development of new classes of pesticides and application techniques means that the relationship with the plant-protection industry should be reviewed."
This sounds suspiciously as if the BBKA is finally abandoning proven harmful pesticides, but that they are eager to endorse new pesticides that haven't had time to build up such a bad reputation.
And Smith even wants the BBKA to "further support the industry in the general move to improve countryside stewardship"! Inviting the fox to guard the chicken coop is the image that comes to mind.
Is this what Smith means by the BBKA's "constructive engagement" with the pesticide industry?
Beekeeper Graham White, who resigned from the BBKA in disgust at its practice of endorsing harmful pesticides, is quoted as saying that BBKA should sever all ties to the pesticide industry immediately: "All of those who created and directed this policy of pesticide endorsement must be thrown out of the BBKA and replaced by real beekeepers. The BBKA is not fit for purpose and will never recover its moral integrity until it is reconstituted as a pure beekeeping organisation that is willing to campaign against all use of systemic pesticides on British farms."
1. Pesticide industry involvement in EU risk assessment puts survival of bees at stake
16 November 2010 -- Industry "experts" are undermining an EU review of the regulations of pesticides and putting Europe’s bee population further at risk, according to new research from the European Beekeeping Coordination and Corporate Europe Observatory published today . The report comes ahead of a vote by MEPs (23rd 24th November) on a resolution requiring independent research into bee mortality and a revision of EU rules governing risk assessments of bees' exposure to pesticides .
According to the research, proposed new safety tests for pesticides used in the European Union fail to take into account the way in which so-called systemic pesticides can build up in bees and their food supplies.
Bee numbers have been declining across Europe by up to 30 per cent a year, threatening food supplies because of the vital role played by bee pollination . A number of different factors are thought to be to blame.
The report found that a number of "experts" from pesticide companies are involved in defining which tests are required to verify the safety of new pesticides under the EU pesticides directive .
Because the EU institutions do not have their own expertise on bees, the Commission has outsourced advice on new guidelines to the International Committee of Plant-Bee Relationship (ICPBR), which has set up a working group to look at the impacts of pesticides on bees. Representatives from pesticide manufacturers including Bayer Crop Science, Syngenta and BASF all sit on this group and it is responsible for designing and recommending the methodologies for the risk assessments of bees' exposure to pesticides which are then approved by the EU institutions.
Francesco Panella, professional beekeeper and spokesperson for the European Beekeeping Coordination explained: "There is evidence that suggests pesticides may be playing a key part in the high death rate among bees. Given the importance of the bee population, we believe the cumulative impacts of pesticides must be investigated under adequate safety procedures. But experts from industry have vetoed these proposals and said that there is no reason for concern."
These "experts" have put forward safety tests which would allow pesticides that destroy as many as a third of bees in a hive to be classified as safe a rate of loss that would allow a rapid decline in bee numbers and make bee keeping unviable.
Francesco Panella continued: "Industry is being allowed to set its own rules and the result will be disastrous for Europe’s bee population."
"It is essential for our environment, our flora and our fauna that the Commission and member states ensure that the expertise on which they base their decisions is not biased by companies' profit motive. It is not only our bees and beekeeping sector that are at stake, but our environment."
 Is the future of bees in the hands of the pesticide lobby? European Beekeeping Coordination and Corporate Europe Observatory, November 2010 See
 The peak of new bee colony collapses happened in spring 2008 in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia where there was found to be a high load of neurotoxic pesticides in the atmosphere. Neurotoxic pesticides include neonicotinoids (nicotine-based) which are applied "systemically" to the plant by coating the seeds, injecting the plant or irrigating with the pesticide. This results in the presence of the pesticide throughout the plant, including in the pollen.
 The toxicity and other characteristics of pesticides and their active substances must be evaluated in order to get authorisation for marketing in the EU. In accordance with European Directive 91/414/EEC, the pesticide active substances are approved at European level. The annexes of this directive (Annex II and III of Council Directive 91/414 of 15 July 1991) is currently under review.
see also: Bee devastation: Campaign for total ban of neonicotinoid pesticides
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2. Controversial pesticides linked to 'total ecological collapse' of insects and birds
Widespread use of insecticides affecting bee populations but also causing decline in numbers of birds, butterflies and moths, warns Dutch toxicologist
Dearbhla Crosse and Tom Levitt
16th November, 2010
A new book is blaming the significant decline of bird and bee numbers across Europe on the use of certain pesticides in agriculture. In The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making, toxicologist Dr Henk Tennekes suggests that dangerous insecticides known as neonicotinoids are seriously affecting bird and insect life, and their continued use could result in an "environmental catastrophe".
”¨”¨Neonicotinoids are often used as seed-dressing for maize, sunflower and rapeseed. However, Tennekes says as well as spreading throughout the entire plant and into the nectar and pollen, they also have a high leaching potential and seep into soils and groundwater. Even low concentrations of the pesticide may be more deadly then previously thought due to their high persistence in soil and water, he adds.”¨”¨In a study published in the journal Toxicology earlier this year, Tennekes had suggested this could be a factor behind declining bee numbers across Europe. He now believes bee are not the only victims.”¨”¨
"Any insect that feeds on the crop dies. Any bee or butterfly that collects pollen or nectar from the crop is poisoned. Neonicotinoids behave like carcinogens, and easily contaminate ground and surface water. There could be dire long-term consequences of environmental pollution with these insecticides, and my fears were confirmed by extensive research," says Tennekes.”¨”¨
In his book, Tennekes writes that even minute traces of these pesticides could be fatal to insects, as continued use affects food availability for birds, a lack of weeds resulting in a loss of insects, as well as seeds. This decline is also linked to a lack of larger insects upon which chicks depend for their survival, which in turn affects breeding. ”¨”¨"An ecological collapse is already taking place before our eyes," Tennekes told the Ecologist. "Numerous bird species do not find enough food for their chicks as insects are being exterminated by pesticides. Insects are vital in ecosystems.
In fact, we need them for human survival."”¨”¨The Soil Association, which along with Buglife and Pesticide Action Network UK has previously called for neonicotinoid pesticides to be banned, says the decline in bee numbers alone should serve as an early warning.”¨”¨"In the UK alone, beekeepers [have in the recent past] reported a loss of one in three bee colonies," said a spokesperson. "This has serious consequences for worldwide food security, because bees are our most important pollinators and play a vital role in the food chain it is estimated that one-third of human food supplies depend on bee pollination. Bees are therefore like the "canary in the coal mine" their deaths are a warning to us all that the health of the planet is under threat."
3. British Beekeepers' Association to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides
Beekeepers' group ends commercial relationship with pesticide manufacturer whose product killed bees
Alison Benjamin, guardian society editor
17th November, 2010
The British Beekeepers' Association has announced plans to end its controversial practice of endorsing pesticides in return for cash from leading chemical manufacturers.
The endorsement of four products as 'bee-friendly' in return for £17,500 a year caused outrage among many beekeepers because one of the companies, Bayer Crop Science, makes pesticides that are widely implicated in the deaths of honeybees worldwide.
But the BBKA denies that it has bowed to pressure from members who have been increasingly critical of the its stance. Bayer's clothianidin was identified as causing the death of two-thirds of honeybees in southern Germany in 2008.
In a statement sent out to the secretaries of local beekeeping associations across the UK, the BBKA's president, Martin Smith, said: 'Following discussion with the companies involved, the BBKA trustees have decided that endorsement and related product-specific payments will cease as soon as practically possible.'
He added: 'The four products subject to BBKA endorsement are of declining commercial importance and the development of new classes of pesticides and application techniques means that the relationship with the plant-protection industry should be reviewed.'
Beekeeper Graham White, who resigned from the BBKA more than two years ago in protest at what he called a 'secret deal done with the pesticide manufacturers whose products are lethal to bees', welcomed today's decision.
'It's great news, but it's too little, too late,' he said. 'They should have been showing solidarity with beekeepers in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia when pesticides were banned there after being implicated in bee deaths, instead of selling their logo to the manufacturers.'
Smith defended its position then as one of 'constructive engagement' to ensure pesticides were properly applied as per the instructions on the label to minimise damage to honeybees.
The BBKA's position has polarised the 45,000-strong beekeeping community, but the majority of BBKA members upheld its policy at its annual delegate meeting earlier this year and in 2009.
At the next meeting in January, delegates will be asked to note today's decision 'with respect to the cessation of BBKA endorsement of certain pesticides'.
But the organisation has not ruled out accepting funds in the future from pesticide companies. 'The trustees may wish to invite companies to exhibit at the BBKA's spring convention or make a contribution to the BBKA research fund,' said Smith.
'It is time to broaden the range of engagement with the crop-protection industry beyond the narrow focus of endorsing certain products; rather to contribute more directly to the development of new regulatory criteria for pesticide approval and to further support the industry in the general move to improve countryside stewardship,' he added.
White says all ties to the pesticide industry should be immediately severed. 'All of those who created and directed this policy of pesticide endorsement must be thrown out of the BBKA and replaced by real beekeepers. The BBKA is not fit for purpose and will never recover its moral integrity until it is reconstituted as a pure beekeeping organisation that is willing to campaign against all use of systemic pesticides on British farms.'
This article is reproduced courtesy of the Guardian Environment Network