PESTICIDES: It is testing we need, not opinion

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Regarding your Growers page story in the September 9 Lincolnshire Free Press.

Oilseed rape has been grown in the UK since the 1960s, some two decades before neonicotinoids’ became available.

Then insect pests were controlled by alternative insecticides. As is usual, resistance arose with continuous and increasing use of these compounds.

Neonicotinoids offered an alternative substance with no pest resistance and high levels of control.

Within the limits of knowledge they were considered to be an acceptable means of controlling insect pests, not only in oilseed rape but sugar beet, ornamental plants and lawns.

They are persistent in soil for more than seven months, and are marketed mainly as seed dressings to prevent insect attack.

If sprayed directly onto bees it requires less than one millionth of a gram to kill the insect.

However as knowledge has increased some new evidence has emerged that implicate these compounds in causing decline in bees.

Bees, like any other organism, are not immune to pests and diseases. They are particularly susceptible to mites and virus, that can cause complete colony death.

So as the knowledge of these compounds is not fully evaluated, more information needs to be gained to ensure their continued use or withdrawl.

A temporary ban would seem to be the most sensible option, but it may take a considerable amount of time to discover if they affect bees and at what dose level.

Testing of pesticides before release is comprehensive and takes some years, but it is not possible to know everything. It is often many years or decades after use, that pesticides are found to have unacceptable effects upon man or the environment.

An example recently being Metaldehyde slug pellets in use since 1936. Now being found in drinking water in 2013.

So it is not opinion that is needed here, it is more rigorous testing as the knowledge regarding their activity is very limited.

Mike Harrison

Spalding