As the European Commission prepares to formalise its decision to impose a temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides later this week, the UK Crop Protection Association (CPA) is calling on the Commission to formally request and publish advice on the issue from the EUs chief scientific adviser Professor Anne Glover and the EUs new Science and Technology Advisory Council, prior to any final decision.
CPA chief executive Nick von Westenholz said the Commissions decision to press ahead with a ban, without a political mandate from Member States and based on flaky scientific evidence, was directly at odds with President Barrosos commitment to put science-based decision-making at the heart of Europes drive for innovation and economic growth.
Professor Glovers appointment as the European Commissions first chief scientific adviser in January 2012 followed a pledge by Jose Manuel Barroso to fundamentally review how the EU accesses and uses scientific advice, particularly in areas of controversy or uncertainty.
Her appointment was followed earlier this year by the creation of a new Science and Technology Advisory Council, a move intended to reflect the Commissions increasing focus on science and technology to boost European competitiveness.
However, both Professor Glover and the new advisory council appear to have been absent from the decision-making process on neonicotinoids, said Mr von Westenholz.
Mr von Westenholz said the Commissions decision to impose a ban ignored field-based research which found no evidence of harmful effects on bees when neonicotinoids are used under field conditions. Instead the Commission relied on studies which did not reproduce realistic exposure conditions or dose rates.
Last week, the UKs outgoing chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, told CPAs Annual Convention that the European Commissions ban on neonicotinoids did not reflect the scientific evidence and was a potential misuse of the precautionary principle.
This decision calls into question the role of the EUs chief scientist and advisory council, continued Mr von Westenholz. Failure to refer the Commissions decision to these independent advisers sets a potentially damaging precedent for EU decision-making, and sends a negative signal to research-based organisations across Europe.
“We believe that a ban on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments would not improve bee health, but would remove a key crop protection technology which is vital for economically and environmentally sustainable crop production in the UK and across Europe.
“Extensive scientific and field-based monitoring and evidence from beekeepers point to the Varroa mite and parasitic diseases, combined with the problems associated with habitat loss, colony stress and climate change, as the key factors implicated in declining bee populations.
“The crop protection industry recognises the critical importance of bees as pollinators for agriculture and food production. It is vital that the causes of bee health problems are properly understood, and our industry actively supports on-going research and stewardship programmes aimed at protecting bee health.
“Campaigns to blame the nearest chemical must not deflect research effort and resource away from these environmental, pest and disease issues which together present the major underlying challenges to bee health,” he said.