Research on neonicotinoid pesticides commissioned by two of the leading agrochemical companies, Syngenta and Bayer, confirms that these products can cause serious harm to honeybees. This information was revealed by Greenpeace through a Freedom of Information Act request, after senior scientists for the companies submitted the research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"If Bayer and Syngenta cared about the future of our pollinators, they would have made the findings public," Ben Stewart, at Greenpeace, told The Guardian. "Instead, they kept quiet about them for months and carried on downplaying nearly every study that questioned the safety of their products. It’s time for these companies to come clean about what they really know."
Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin were both shown over the course of the research to cause serious harm to bee colonies at high doses. The studies did not find significant effects of the pesticides below concentrations of 50 parts per billion (ppb) and 40ppb respectively. While concentrations of these pesticides are usually below 10ppb in field applications, scientists have urged these companies to make their research available to the public.
The same research method that both companies had previously criticized in independent studies was used: that of feeding live bees sucrose dosed with neonicotinoids.
“If someone had done this type of study and found harm at more realistic levels, the industry would have immediately dismissed it as a rubbish study because it was not what happens naturally to bees,” said Professor Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex. “So it is interesting that they are doing those kinds of studies themselves and then keeping them quiet.”
Syngenta told Greenpeace in August that none of its research showed a link between the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and damage to the health of bee colonies.
Neonicotinoids are water-soluble pesticides chemically related to nicotine. They are the most widely used insecticides in the world. The EU banned certain neonicotinoids in 2013 due to their suspected link to bee deaths.
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Honeybee image via Shutterstock