Europe’s decision to ban neonicotinoids is another example of politicians making decisions meant for regulators. Pesticides have been blamed for a decline in bee health despite a lack of scientific proof.
“Clear scientific evidence has taken a back-seat to a politically-based decision on regulation, which could mean the reduction of effective crop protection products in Europe,” said Graeme Peters, chief executive of Agcarm.
There is absolutely no evidence that neonicotinoids are harming New Zealand’s bee population. First introduced in 1992, neonicotinoids are thoroughly assessed before being approved for use by the Environmental Protection Authority.
Blaming pesticides is barking up the wrong tree. A multitude of factors are responsible for persistent bee mortality, including pests and parasites, microbial disease, inadequate diet, bee management practices and climate change.
Bee health challenges in New Zealand include resistance to treatments for varroa and new pests and pathogens weakening bee colonies. Despite this, bee numbers in managed hives have increased since 2005, signalling a growing industry.
In Europe, three neonicotinoids will be banned from use for two years on flowering crops such as corn, oilseed rape and sunflowers, upon which bees feed.
Neonicotinoids are primarily used to coat seeds, protecting young plants from being destroyed by insects. They are considered safe for bees when applied correctly. Following instructions on the label instructions and attending GROWSAFE training courses are two ways to help bees. Focusing our attention on issues such as the varroa mite will be far more beneficial.
Having attended briefings with officials and industry representatives in Europe, Graeme concludes that the ban is unlikely to improve bee health. The question as to what alternatives European farmers and growers will use instead remains unanswered.