The agrochemical giants, Bayer AG and Syngenta AG, have been caught in a dramatic situation after a study they partly funded proved that neonicotinoid pesticides used by farmers are significantly reducing bees’ population. Bayer and Syngenta are the manufacturers of the neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoid is banned in Europe.
The first ever large-scale work to study pesticides effects on bees, which has exposed the two agrochemical companies, was carried out at 33 sites in the United Kingdom, Germany and Hungary. In many of these sites, the study found that exposure to neonicotinoids left honey beehives less likely to survive over winter, while bumblebees and solitary bees produced fewer queens.
Authors of the study claim this is the first real-world experiment demonstrating direct causation between neonics and reduced bee populations. They claim their study is consistent with other previous findings regarding the harming of bees and other useful insects by farming chemicals produced by the agrochemical companies.
According to the study, negative effects on bumblebees and solitary bees — higher concentrations of neonicotinoid residues in nests resulted in fewer queens — were observed in all three countries. In the United Kingdom and Hungary, harmful effects of neonicotinoids were found on honeybees. The study observed high hive mortality in the United Kingdom, while a 24 percent decrease in bees’ colonies was observed in Hungary.
Lead author of the study, Richard Pywell of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxfordshire, warned that the study should be taken seriously by governments and policy makers as failure to do so would contribute to crop failure in the near future. This of course would exacerbate the already fragile food situation the world is currently facing.
“Our findings are a cause for serious concern. We’ve shown for the first time negative effects of neonicotinoid-coated seed dressings on honeybees and we’ve also shown similar negative effects on wild bees. This is important because many crops globally are insect pollinated and without pollinators we would struggle to produce some foods.”
The findings of the study will be analyzed as part of an assessment due in November to the European Union. The BBC reports that the EU is “working on new draft proposals to extend the ban on neonicotinoids.”
Bloomberg reports that both Bayer and Syngenta are now under pressure from EU officials following the findings of the study. Meanwhile, despite the overwhelming evidence, Bayer and Syngenta still maintain their products are safe for bees, and that results of the study are inconclusive.