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expert reaction to the UK government decision to authorise the limited use of two neonicotinoid pesticides

The UK government has announced a decision to allow the limited use of two neonicotinoid pesticides, which had been the subject of a wider ban.


Dr Christopher Connolly, Reader in the Medical Research Institute at the University of Dundee, said:

“The NFU say “the Government has recognised the problem and has given a restricted number of farmers a solution”. It is essential that the grounds for these exemptions are made clear, when the ‘Precautionary Principle’ should be applied.

“Certainly, there has not been any change in the balance of scientific evidence base to warrant the reintroduction of the neonicotinoids. Therefore, actual evidence on the degree of losses suffered in these areas and the consequences of this loss, should be made public. Only then can a reasonable justification for exemptions be made. The current ban on the neonicotinoids is a permanent ban, until robust evidence demonstrates a lack of harm. No such demonstration has been made.

“Many laboratory studies have used higher doses than found in the environment and have therefore been criticised and discounted. However, there is no justification to ignore the laboratory (and semi-field) studies where field realistic doses have been found to be damaging to bees. Until this debate over the use neonicotinoids is decided, UK exemptions must be few and fully justified. To date, full justification has not been made.”


Dr Lynn Dicks, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Research fellow, University of Cambridge, said:

“We now have robust evidence that neonicotinoids have a serious impact on free-living bumblebee colonies in real farmed landscapes (

“The Bayer ingredient allowed under this derogation – clothianidin – is the one tested in the recent study. It showed that bumblebees in landscapes with treated oilseed rape produced only a third as many queens as those in landscapes treated with other insecticide sprays, but not neonicotinoid. On this basis, areas with 5% of the UK’s rape crop might expect to lose two-thirds of their wild bumblebee queens going into the winter of 2016/17 because of this decision. I would like to ask the two companies who gain from this decision – Bayer and Syngenta – to pay scientists to monitor the impacts on wild bumblebees and solitary bees, in comparison with areas the remain under the ban.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


Declared interests

Dr Christopher Connolly: “I am lead applicant on a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Scottish Government, and The Wellcome Trust, under the Insect Pollinators Initiative (United Kingdom) Grant BB/1000313/1​.”

Dr Lynn Dicks: No interests to declare.

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