Press Release, August 2, 2010
Coalition against Bayer Dangers (Germany)

Imidacloprid: Long-term risks undervalued

Best-selling pesticide worldwide / New study published in Toxicology / Substance linked with bee deaths in various countries / Ban demanded

For many years environmental groups and beekeepers´ organizations have been pushing for a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides which are linked to bee decline across the world. In a recent study, The toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to arthropods is reinforced by exposure time, the Dutch toxicologist Henk Tennekes demonstrates that the long-term risks associated with the insecticides imidacloprid and thiacloprid are far greater than hitherto thought. This could actually explain worldwide bee decline. The study was published on the 23rd of July in the journal Toxicology (online).

Dr. Henk Tennekes on his results: “The risks of the neonicotinoid insecticides imidacloprid and thiacloprid to arthropods in water and soil may be seriously underestimated. The acceptable limits are based mainly on short-term tests. If long-term studies were to be carried out, far lower concentrations may turn out to be hazardous. This explains why minute quantities of imidacloprid may induce bee decline in the long run.” Because of their high persistence significant quantities of neonicotinoids may remain in the soil for several years. Consequently, untreated plants growing on soil previously exposed to imidacloprid may take up the substance via their roots and become hazardous for bees.

Henk Tennekes is also concerned about the high level of surface water contamination with relatively stable agrochemicals. The Dutch water boards have detected imidacloprid levels of up to 320 microgram per liter (µg/l). The European Plant Protection Products Directive (91/414/EEC) requires that there is not an unacceptable impact on non-target organisms in the aquatic and terrestrial environment and that the annual average concentration of an active substance or relevant metabolite does not exceed 0.1 microgram per liter in any ground water.

Imidacloprid is the most widely used insecticide in the world and Bayer´s best-selling pesticide (2009 sales: €606 million). The substance is often used as seed-dressing, especially for maize, sunflower and rapeseed. The beginning of the marketing of imidacloprid coincided with the occurrence of large bee deaths, first in France, later on also in many other European countries, Canada, the US and Brazil.

After huge bee mortality in Germany in 2008 which was shown to be caused by neonicotinoid pesticides the Coalition against Bayer Dangers accused the Bayer management of downplaying the risks of imidacloprid, submitting deficient studies to authorities and thereby accepting huge losses of honey bees in many parts of the world. At the same time, German authorities imposed a ban on the use of imidacloprid and its successor product, clothianidin, on maize. Italy and Slovenia imposed a similar ban.

In France imidacloprid has been banned as a seed dressing for sunflowers (since 1999) and maize (since 2004). In 2003 the Comité Scientifique et Technique, convened by the French government, declared that the treatment of seeds with imidacloprid leads to “significant risks for bees”. The consumption of contaminated pollen can cause an increased mortality of care-taking-bees. When individual bees were exposed to sublethal doses their foraging activity decreased and they became disorientated, which researchers concluded “can in the course of time damage the entire colony”. Clothianidin was never approved in France.

we gladly send you a copy of the study
contact Dr. Henk Tennekes: info(at), Tel.

more information: Campaign for total ban of neonicotinoid pesticides

The Ecologist; 5th August, 2010

‘Growing body of evidence’ links pesticides to bee decline

Government and retailers, including B&Q and Wyevale, under pressure to impose a ban on sale of pesticides linked to bee population decline following new research

Environmental groups including the Soil Association and Buglife are making a renewd call for an end to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are among the most commonly used pesticides worldwide, after a new study linked them to a decline in bee in bee populations.

The study, published in the journal Toxicology, says the effects on bees of two particular neonicotinoid pesticides, known as imidacloprid and thiacloprid, have previously been underestimated and may explain the decline in bee populations.

It says even low concentrations of the pesticides may be more deadly then previously thought due to their high persistence in soil and water, supporting claims for the role that pesticides may play in bee deaths.

‘The acceptable limits are based mainly on short-term tests. If long-term studies were to be carried out, far lower concentrations may turn out to be hazardous. This explains why minute quantities of imidacloprid may induce bee decline in the long run,’ says study author Dr. Henk Tennekes.

Calls for a ban
Buglife campaigner Vicky Kindemba has welcomed the new research, saying it adds support to calls for a suspension in the use of the pesticides in the UK.

‘This new information adds to the growing body of evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides are very harmful and even at extremely low levels in our environment they could still negatively impact on UK wildlife including pollinators, soil organisms and aquatic invertebrates,’ Kindemba said.

The Soil Association said other products containing the pesticides should also be withdrawn from general sale in UK supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centres.

‘If the honeybee disappeared off the surface of the globe forever we’d be facing up to an unimaginable food crisis,' said a spokesperson. 'This latest research only adds to the evidence that is already strong enough to justify an immediate ban on neonicotinoids today.'

The campaign group has written to the chief executives of B&Q, Wilkinson's and Wyevale asking them to withdraw any products containing neonicotinoid pesticides from their store.

Government disregards warning
Responding to the new study, Defra said the UK would not be following some other EU countries in restricting the use of neonicotinoids.

'This research highlights a need for more data on long-term risks to bee health. We have already been considering this and pesticide companies will soon need to provide this data under new EU rules.

'We will keep this area under review and will not hesitate to act if there is any evidence of an unacceptable risk to bees,' said a spokesperson.

8 Aug 2010, The Herald (Scotland)

Is a toxic pesticide killing off our bees ?

The UK Government is under mounting pressure to ban a toxic pesticide after new evidence suggested it could be to blame for the catastrophic collapse of Britain’s bee populations.

A Dutch scientific study says that bees could be poisoned by long-term exposure to small concentrations of nicotine-based insecticides known as neonicotinoids. They are widely used by British farmers to kill insects that damage crops.
Because of concerns that they may be wiping out bees, their use has been banned or restricted in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. So far, however, the UK Government has resisted calls for a ban.
According to bee-keepers, honeybee populations in the UK crashed by nearly a third in 2008. The implications are alarming, as bees contribute £200 million a year to the UK economy and pollinate one in every three mouthfuls of food that we eat.
The crash has sometimes been labelled “colony collapse disorder”, and its causes are disputed. But some scientists argue that neonicotinoids, which paralyse insects by attacking the nervous system, are implicated.
The new study is by Dr Henk Tennekes, a consultant toxicologist from Zutphen in the Netherlands. Published in the latest edition of the journal Toxicology, it says that very small quantities of toxins can be hazardous in the long run.
“The long-term risks may have been seriously underestimated,” Dr Tennekes told the Sunday Herald. Neonicotinoids should be banned as a precautionary measure, he argued.
“These insecticides may leach from soil into ground and surface water and are long-lived in water and soil. Prolonged exposure of invertebrates is likely to occur, and under such circumstances, minute quantities may intoxicate aquatic and terrestrial organisms.”
This could explain the disappearance of bees, Dr Tennekes said. “If long-term studies were to be carried out, far lower concentrations may turn out to be hazardous.”
He was backed by Professor Andrew Watterson, head of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at Stirling University. “This research indicates the potential risks associated with the use of this insecticide,” he said.
He urged the UK Government to learn from the precautionary bans in France and elsewhere. “This merits serious scrutiny in a UK context,” he added. “Controls on applications should be considered.”
Environmental groups ranging from the Soil Association, which certifies organic food, to Buglife, which campaigns to protect insects, are also demanding a ban. Buglife wrote to the UK Government last September, but is still awaiting a reply.
Beekeepers, meanwhile, are furious. Graham White, an environmental author who keeps bees in the Scottish Borders pointed out that neonicotinoids were revolutionary because they were put inside seeds, and permeated the whole plant.
“Any insect that feeds on the crop dies. Any bee or butterfly that collects pollen or nectar from the crop is poisoned. Even worse, every plant you buy in any garden centre is laced with the toxin.”
White added: “We are witnessing an ecological collapse in all the wildlife that used to live in fields, hedgerows, ponds and streams. All the common species we knew as children are being wiped from the face of the countryside.”
The pesticides industry, however, takes a different view. “A ban on the use of highly effective and specific neonicotinoid seed treatments will have no demonstrable benefits for bee health in the UK,” said Dominic Dyer, the chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide companies.
“By contrast it could result in unnecessary crop failure due to pest attack or a significant increase in the use of other broad spectrum insecticides.”
According to the UK Government, the new study highlights the pressing need for more data on the long-term risks to bee health. “We will keep this area under review and will not hesitate to act if there is any evidence of an unacceptable risk to bees,” said a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London.
Rob Edwards, Environment Editor