The conclusions of a 2013 field study which was conducted by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) for Defra on the effect of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees has been criticised by a scientist.
The study was used by then Environmental Secretary Owen Paterson to criticise the European Commission’s moratorium on the use of three such chemicals. “We did not see grounds for a ban based on our field trial data,” he said.
It has since emerged that European Food Standards Agency (Efsa) had expressed concerns about the way the study’s results, which were not peer reviewed, had been interpreted. Now these results have been re-examined by Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex, who has come to different conclusions.
He said, “The conclusions they come to seem to be completely contrary to their own results section. They find that 100 per cent of the time there is a negative relationship between how much pesticides were found in the nest and how well the nest performed, and they go on to conclude that the study shows that there isn’t a significant effect of pesticides on bee colonies. It doesn’t add up.”
However a spokesperson for Fera defended the original report: “In the executive summary of our 2013 report we clearly stated that our experiment lacked the power to reach any firm conclusions about the impact of seed-coated neonicotinoids on bumblebee health. Whilst there was an absence of evidence to support the hypothesis that neonicotinoids harm bees, this does not lead to the conclusion that they are benign.”