Farm chemical firm on defensive as EU ban on some pesticides approved
The makers of pesticides feared to have a damaging effect on bees have insisted that there was no need for them to be banned.
Concerns have been raised that exposure to "neonicotinoid" insecticides can have an immediate or long-term effect on bee colony survival and development and that sub-lethal doses can have impacts such as damaging foraging behaviour.
But Bayer CropScience's Dr Julian Little told the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that when all the evidence surrounding neonicotinoids was considered, there was no need to ban them.
His comments came after the European Food Safety Authority concluded that three neonicotinoids should not be used on crops that are attractive to honey bees because they could be exposed to harm through pollen or nectar.
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One of the main uses in the UK for neonicotinoids is oilseed rape, which honey bees commonly feed on.
Bees could also be exposed to the pesticides from dust produced when crops such as sugar beet or those planted in glasshouses are treated, and in one case honey bees were affected by exposure to the sap exuded by maize, EFSA said.
However, Dr Little said the EFSA review had not looked at the full data set available to them, including work done "in real in-field situations, using real bees from real hives in real fields".
When questioned by MPs over a call from the Dutch parliament for a Europe-wide moratorium on neonicotinoids, he replied: "There's plenty of evidence out there, if they look at all the evidence there's no need for a ban." And he said: "When you look at what affects bee health in real situations, what it isn't is pesticides, what it is is Varroa (a mite which affects bees), various viruses and habitat issues."
He also warned that Europe risked enshrining a "sort of museum agriculture" by preventing the use of technology which was being used in other parts of the world that was making farming more competitive and using less resources.
But there is increasing pressure to take action on the chemicals, and Friends of the Earth said it had received confirmation that Homebase had joined Wickes and B&Q in taking action on neonicotinoids.
Homebase told the environmental group that none of its own brand pesticides contained the chemicals and it has removed Bayer Lawn Grub Killer, which contains the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, from sale as a precaution.
Friends of the Earth's Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: "It's fantastic news that major retailers are removing pesticides linked to bee decline from their shelves. It's time for the Government to act responsibly too – ministers must suspend from sale the three neonicotinoids named by European food safety experts earlier this month."