Hartfield said: "The article, published last week, balances the positives of neonicotinoid use (the yield benefits and reduced use of foliar sprays) with the negatives (impacts on honeybees). This balance is rare where papers on neonicotinoids are concerned.
"In terms of the positives, the study shows how using neonicotinoid seed treatments significantly reduces farmers’ use of foliar insecticide sprays (by about 25 per cent). This is an important finding because, across a dataset covering about 73,000 ha, it shows how use of targeted seed treatments results in fewer pesticide sprays and in principle this should be better for the environment."
He said the article "predicts differences in colony loss of 10 per cent between areas of low and high exposure to imidacloprid", adding that "this is a correlation and doesn’t demonstrate causation".
He added: "It’s also interesting the link involves imidacloprid and not the other neonicotinoids restricted by the EU. Imidacloprid is an older neonicotinoid and before the restrictions its use as an oilseed rape seed treatment had declined and less than one per cent of the UK crop was treated with it".
Meanwhile, a new study by European scientists, published on August 26, confirmed that neonicotinoid pesticides applied as foliar sprays pose a risk to bees.
In the report, published today, scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identified ‘high risks’ to bees when three of the neonicotinoids, which are currently restricted for use because of previous scientific studies, are used as sprays on crop leaves and foliage.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA’s) latest study confirms that the risk applies to bees of all kinds – managed honey bees and to wild bumble and solitary bees.
EFSA said: "The Authority has published assessments on the risks to bees from clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam for all uses other than seed treatments and granules. In cases where the assessment could be completed, high risks were either identified or could not be excluded. In other cases the risk assessment could not be finalised due to data gaps."
Friends of the Earth is mounting a legal challenge to a UK Government decision last month to allow some farmers to use seeds treated with ‘banned’ neonicotinoid pesticides in England.http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/150826