In 2013, the EU issued instructions withdrawing the use and sale of three neonicotinoids, namely imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, due to concerns about their potential impacts on bees. The UK government did not support this ban because the scientific evidence was not deemed adequate.
According to the HTA update, neonicotinoids have been widely adopted because of their effectiveness in treating insect pests and their favourable human and environmental safety profile, especially when compared to the older products they replaced.
It adds: "They play a critical role in modern integrated pest management programs by targeting specific pests while helping to preserve beneficial insects. With hundreds of studies conducted, we know more about neonicotinoids and bees than about any other class of insecticide.
"A number of neonicotinoid products that pose little or no harm to beneficial insects or bees are still available for amateur sale including Multirose, Provado, Bug Clear and Rose Clear. At present, it remains legal to continue to sell these products. These products have been fully assessed, rigorously tested and carry very clear instructions for safe application. Customers may ask about their safety and the danger to bees and there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to form a clear informed opinion on this.
"This is the view held by the government, HTA and NFU - all of which are engaged in Defra’s National Pollinator Strategy and acknowledge the need for more research to be carried out. This includes research into alternatives to neonicotinoids.*
The HTA says it will continue to support the work of the National Pollinator Initiative and the commitment to researching the science behind neonicotinoids and pollinator health.
It adds: "More work remains to be done on wider environmental causes of bee decline and research into alternative controls to limit the damage currently being suffered by growers.
The EU is to review the evidence towards the end of May 2015. The HTA says it will continue to monitor developments.
"The European Commission’s original proposal included an exemption to allow treatments on bee attractive crops in greenhouses after flowering and the HTA will continue to argue for a full exemption for ornamental horticulture for autumn treatments as well.
UPDATE This is an updated version of the original statement from the HTA. The original version included the RHS as one of the organisations holding the same view as the government, HTA and NFU. On 6 May, the HTA said it had been asked by the RHS to take the RHS out of the original statement. We have not received notification from the RHS, on why it wished to be taken out of the HTA statement.
To find out more information, visit http://www.the-hta.org.uk/page.php?pageid=1530