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U.K. Parliamentary Commission Calls for Moratorium on Bee-Killing Pesticides
April 5th, 2013

Report challenges industry research practices, raising questions at home and abroad

Today, the U.K. House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) released their heavily anticipated report Pollinators and Pesticides, an alarming evaluation of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) inadequate assessment of neonicotinoid pesticides and their effects on bee populations. Based on weeks of parliamentary hearings this past winter, the report calls for a moratorium in the U.K. on three specific neonicotinoid pesticides by 2014 and an immediate halt of use in private gardens and homes. Center for Food Safety applauds the strong stance taken by the committee, and urges U.S. regulators to undertake similar in-depth analysis.

“Congress and EPA need to take a good hard look at what’s happening in Europe and ask themselves, ‘why aren’t we doing the same kinds of rigorous assessments?’ It’s time to be proactive in our protection of pollinators,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety.

The report also voices serious concern over the accessibility of scientific research on pesticide impacts.  The vast majority of research is conducted by the pesticide companies themselves, data which is then kept hidden on grounds of commercial confidentiality.  

MP Joan Walley, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, challenged this practice, saying, “Pesticide companies often try to pick holes in studies linking their products to bee decline, but when pushed to publish their own research and safety studies they hide behind claims of commercial sensitivity. The industry must open itself to greater academic scrutiny if it wants to justify its continued opposition to the precautionary protection of pollinators.”

Commercial beekeepers in the U.S. are claiming average annual hive losses of roughly 50%, as recently reported by the The New York Times, with some beekeepers suffering losses as high as 100%. These dramatic declines are wreaking havoc for beekeepers and the farmers who rely on bees for pollination.  While early crops like almonds appear to be skating by on limited and weak hives, the row crop, tree fruit, and berry industries have reason to be concerned about the precarious situation, leaving all parties looking for answers. This latest report out of the U.K. may point the way.

On March 21st the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against EPA on behalf of a coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups.  The lawsuit challenges EPA’s conditional registration of two neonicotinoid pesticides, which has allowed the chemicals to be deployed without proper analysis and in spite of increasing evidence linking the pesticides to bee kills.

Just weeks ago the EPA held a Pollinators Summit purportedly intended to address concerns over bee health, but as an exposé released by Dan Rathers Reports earlier this week shows, the summit was dominated by pesticide companies and showed little action on the issue of neonicotinoids. 

“Lack of transparency in the registration and review process is a serious frustration among beekeepers and environmental advocates.  This rigorous new report by EAC clearly demonstrates the need for more accountability and for government regulators to use caution in their approvals,” said Larissa Walker, policy and campaign coordinator at the Center for Food Safety.

The comprehensive report bases its judgments on an extensive review of peer-reviewed science, regulatory history, and over 200 pages of expert testimony and written statements. 

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About Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety is a national, nonprofit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

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