Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12

Thread: Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist) on the neonic moratorium

  1. #1
    Administrator gavin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Tayside
    Posts
    4,413
    Blog Entries
    41

    Default Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist) on the neonic moratorium

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/article4227789.ece?shareToken=bcf96dd5139384b1b0e8 0e8c71ab8a39

    Brussels and its busy bees are a perfect pest


    An EU pesticide ban that was supposed to protect bees has done no such thing. All it does is damage farmers’ crops
    The European Union’s addiction to the precautionary principle — which says in effect that the risks of new technologies must be measured against perfection, not against the risks of existing technologies — has caused many perverse policy decisions. It may now have produced a result that has proved so utterly foot-shooting, so swiftly, that even Eurocrats might notice the environmental disaster they have created.
    All across southeast Britain this autumn, crops of oilseed rape are dying because of infestation by flea beetles. The direct cause of the problem is the two-year ban on pesticides called neonicotinoids brought in by the EU over British objections at the tail end of last year. The ban was justified on the precautionary ground that neonics might be causing the mass decline of bees. There is, by the way, no mass decline of bees, as I shall explain.
    Neonics are primarily used as a seed dressing: seeds are soaked in the chemical so that the plant grows up protected from pests and — crucially — often does not need to be sprayed. The beauty of this is that it targets pests, such as flea beetles, that eat the plant, but not the bystanders such as other insects. In the laboratory, bees exposed to high doses of neonics do indeed die or become confused. So they should — that’s what the word “insecticide” means.
    Yet large-scale field studies and real world evidence consistently demonstrate that rape pollen does not contain a high enough dose to have an impact on bee colonies. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report on the subject concluded that lab studies used to justify the EU ban severely overdosed their bees and that bees are not affected by neonics under normal conditions. Australian regulators claim that neonics have actually improved the environment for bees by replacing older pesticides. And in the US, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have so far resisted calls to ban neonics for much the same reason.
    Even though there was literally no good science linking neonics to bee deaths in fields, they were banned anyway for use on flowering crops in Europe. Friends of the Earth, which lobbied for the ban, opined that this would make no difference to farmers. Dave Goulson, a bee activist and author of a fine book on bumblebees called A Sting in the Tale, was widely quoted as saying that farmers were wasting their money on neonics anyway; though how he knew this was not clear. Presumably he thinks farmers are stupid.
    Well, the environmentalists were wrong. The loss of the rape crop this autumn is approaching 50 per cent in Hampshire and not much less in other parts of the country. Farmers in Germany, the EU’s largest producer of rape, are also reporting widespread damage. Since rape is one of the main flower crops, providing huge amounts of pollen and nectar for bees, this will hurt wild bee numbers as well as farmers’ livelihoods.
    Farmers are instead reluctantly using pyrethroids. These older insecticides are less effective against pests (flea beetles are becoming resistant to them), more dangerous to other insects, especially threatening to aquatic invertebrates when they seep into streams and less safe to handle. So the result will be more insect deaths. In a panic, Defra has just announced that it will allow the use of two neonics, but — and here you have to laugh or you would cry — both are sprayed on the flowering crop, rather than used to dress seed! So they definitely can harm bees.
    The ban was brought in entirely to placate green lobby groups, which have privileged and direct access to unelected European officials in policymaking. They hotted up their followers, using the misleading lab studies, to bombard politicians on the topic. The former health commissioner, Tonio Borg, felt so inundated by emails that he had to do something. Owen Paterson, as environment secretary, received 85,000 emails to his parliamentary address alone. Yet he warned colleagues that a ban was unjustified and would be counterproductive. He was right.
    Back to bees. What decline? The number of honeybee hives in the world is at a record high. The number in Europe is higher than it was in the early 1990s when neonics were introduced. Hive mortality in Britain was unusually low in the year before the neonic ban. It’s a myth that honeybees are in dire straits.
    That’s not to say beekeepers don’t have problems. There was a severe problem eight years ago caused by the mysterious colony collapse disorder — a phenomenon that has happened throughout history and seems once again to have disappeared. Greens tried to blame it on genetically modified crops, but it happened in countries with no GM crops. The battle against the varroa mite continues to be hard. A newly virulent strain of tobacco ringspot virus has made the rare leap from infecting plants to infecting bees.
    What about wild bees, and bumblebees in particular? Having read again and again of the terrible decline of bumblebees, I set out to find some graphs or tables. I came away empty-handed. In Britain some species contracted their ranges and some expanded during the 20th century. The specialist species seem to have suffered while the generalists have thrived. But claims of a continuing fall in the abundance of bumblebees over the past 20 years seem to be entirely anecdotal.
    As Dr Goulson recounts in his book, it’s hard to study bumblebee nests because so many get destroyed by badgers. The huge expansion of the badger population in recent years cannot have helped the populations of their favourite prey.
    Full disclosure: I have a farm. My oilseed rape is looking all right this year, but the farmer is not happy at having to use pyrethroids and nor am I. The local beekeeper is hopping mad about the neonic ban, which he thinks has done more harm than good. And he’s genuinely worried about a new threat to honeybees from the small hive beetle, which is spreading in Italy, a major source of honeybees and queens for Britain. Currently there is free movement of potentially contaminated bees from Italy into the UK. In short, nobody’s taking any precautions about the real threats.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Somerset
    Posts
    1,852
    Blog Entries
    35

    Default

    I feel dirty agreeing with anything in a Murdoch rag. Its hard to give Paterson much credit however simply because he's been wrong in so much else that sooner or later he had to say something, presumably by accident, that wasn't completely idiotic.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Jon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Belfast, N. Ireland
    Posts
    5,113
    Blog Entries
    94

    Default

    Some of us have been flagging this scenario up for years but the neonic ban became a primary goal of the green lobby and at this stage no amount of evidence is going to shift that view.
    Almost every day on Facebook there is stuff posted about 'massive' bee decline and the Einstein quotation still pops up on occasion.
    When challenged there is never any evidence because as Ridley says, there is no decline.
    I looked up a lot of stats on colony numbers for a presentation I did at the UBKA conference in March.
    In the EU colony numbers increased by 7% from 2005-2010.
    Canada grows 20 million hectares of neonic treated oil seed rape and it is the main source of the honey crop.

    The main problem honeybees have with neonics is clouds of planter dust due to poor control during maize seed drilling.
    Any form of spraying is also a problem for bees if they come into contact with it.
    Spraying non flowering plants is likely less of a problem as bees are unlikely to be foraging there.

  4. #4

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    North Wales
    Posts
    639

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by beesinthezoo View Post
    What a load of old rot.
    Can you enlarge on that?

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosie View Post
    Can you enlarge on that?
    Sure what a load of old rot. Sorry couldn't resist the request to enlarge.

    To elaborate I was talking about the article which is full of misinformation, poor quotation and plain old ignorance.

    Neonics affect a lot more than bees (something this article barely touches on) and the reason areas of the UK's OSR crop are suffering is partly due to the farming industry's reliance on one type of pesticide for the last 20 years.

    I agree its a falsehood that honeybee colonies are declining (ignoring the near extinction of feral colonies of course) and that invasive diseases and pests such as SHB are the real issue, but everything else in the article? A load of old rot.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Jon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Belfast, N. Ireland
    Posts
    5,113
    Blog Entries
    94

    Default

    Dave Goulson does not think much of Matt Ridley's article.

    I’m one of the scientists who have been conducting this “no good” science, so you might not be surprised to hear that I have a rather different view of the situation. The EU decision was taken only after a team of scientists at the European Food Standard’s Agency had spent 6 months reviewing all the scientific evidence. They concluded that neonics pose an “unacceptable risk” to bees, and hence a majority of EU counties voted for the moratorium. The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, came to the same conclusion, and urged our government to support the ban. The US Fish & Wildlife Service also concurred, and have banned use of all neonics on land they administer. Most recently, a team of 30 scientists, of which I was one, reviewed 800 papers on this topic and in a series of 8 articles published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, concluded that “The combination of prophylactic use, persistence, mobility, systemic properties and chronic toxicity [of neonicotinoids] is predicted to result in substantial impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning”.
    http://splash.sussex.ac.uk/blog/for/...PYeHQ.facebook

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon View Post
    Dave Goulson does not think much of Matt Ridley's article.


    http://splash.sussex.ac.uk/blog/for/...PYeHQ.facebook
    Hear hear. Thanks for putting this up Jon.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Belfast, N. Ireland
    Posts
    5,113
    Blog Entries
    94

    Default

    The evidence is stronger for neonicotinoids causing problems for bumble bees and solitary bees than it is re. honeybees.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon View Post
    The evidence is stronger for neonicotinoids causing problems for bumble bees and solitary bees than it is re. honeybees.
    Hmm not sure I'd agree with that. If anything I think the research has been too honeybee focused and that's coming from a beekeeper.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •