Bee health has become a hot topic regardless as to whether your a natural beekeeper or one of the BBKA variety of beekeepers armed with all manner of potions and plans.
However when the very same organisations that we all rely upon to look out for our collective health and welfare produce some new research we are likely to trust it because we are all in agreement that they do a good job and genuinely care enough about their role to do it right. So FERA would be at the top of the list of good organisations. Trustworthy, reliable and reputable.
So what are we to make of a news item posted in Farming UK that claims that there is no link between neonicotinoids and bee health. The very same chemical we are all now collectively becoming aware of as a serious threat to our bees and the rest of the pollinator insects to boot. One which has time and again been cited in numerous research papers as the main cause or a serious cause or a very serious threat to the future of our pollinator insects, bumble bees, honey bees, hover flies, night flying moths and all the rest. They say it is not neonicotinoids that are the cause and they say its FERA that conducted the research.
Well fear not. FERA have just published their long awaited research. The research which our wonderful government has been saying will guide their decisions over the future use of neonicotinoids.
But its not as you might think. In fact the Farming UK blog has taken it out of context, effectively giving the impression that neonicotinoids are in no way to blame for even a small amount of the problem facing pollinators. Despite all the reams of independent research data that says the opposite.
Not wanting to cast aspertions on FERA but I did happen to talk with several highly qualified scientific people who told me that the research FERA were conducting was flawed because there wasn’t anywhere they could run a parallel control group without them also coming into contact with neonicotinoids. A control group is essential to aid the identification of potential causes of harm by a particular vector which is absent from the control group but present in the test groups. By comparing the two groups one should be able to identify differences provided certain conditions are met. But a valid control group has proven impossible to establish all because this chemical has spread like wildfire across the entire UK agricultural landscape.
This puts a different light on the future of these particular chemicals continued usage as no concise evidence has been found to suggest they are safe to use. In this case the only course of action open to us is to adopt the precautionary principle and suspend the use of these chemicals altogether until more concise evidence is forthcoming.
But as I commented in response to this article from Farming UK one of the biggest problems with a suspension of neonicotinoids is the soil accumulation effect. This was known about when Bayer submitted their own research to the UK department responsible for approvals, showing a series of graphs that proved the chemical was accumulating in the soil year on year at two trial sites. Simply suspending the chemicals will not prove anything until that accumulated toxin in the soil has reduced to a sub threat threshold for all pollinators and then the impact of the suspension will begin to show whether or not these chemicals are one of the causes of bee mortality. But I will let you decide by reading this article and one other from Buenos Aries about the long term cost of a global loss of crop pollinators. Just in case anyone thinks the losses cited by bayer and Syngenta are getting anyone worried.