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More Neonicotinoids data

Just watched an interesting debate on YouTube between a farmer who feels he has to use neonicotinoids and opponents of the decision.

It was chaired by the Wild Life Trusts. It is a long video, some 100 minutes, so for those who do not have the time to watch it I thought I would summarise the key points I got from it:

  • The sugar beet industry is worth some £208 million per year to Britain
  • Sugar beet plays an important role in the 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 crop rotation.
  • This crop rotation is not allowed under this derogation.
  • It is planted in the spring.
  • It is harvested between October and February.
  • It is harvested before it flowers so is not a source of food for bees.
  • The Beet Yellows Virus is carried by aphids.
  • The Beet Yellows Virus can reduce crop yields by up to 80%
  • The neonicotinoid is applied as a pelleted seed.
  • Protection lasts 10 to 14 weeks whilst the seedling is tender.
  • The neonicotinoid lasts a lot longer in the soil.
  • Warmer winters are resulting in more aphids hence more virus.
  • The UK has tighter restrictions than the EU on the use of Neonicotinoids.
  • We would import sugar beet from Brazil or Australia.
  • Imports may contain pesticides our farmers may not use.
  • Work to produce Beet Yellows Virus resistant strains is ongoing.
  • Use of lace wings to eat the aphids is also being investigated.
  • It is anticipated the aphid load will result in Neonicotinoids being used next year as well.
  • Neonicotinoids were introduced to the UK in 1994 as a seed dressing.
  • LD50 is Lethal dose 50% and is the amount of a pesticide required to kill 50% of the population.
  • This is calculated in laboratory tests
  • The LD50 value for thiamethoxam is 4 billionths of a gram per honey bee.
  • That is one teaspoon (5 grams) will kill 1.25 billion bees
  • That is 125 tons of dead bees or 4 large lorry loads - and all from a teaspoon of pesticide.
  • In the last year before the ban the UK spread 110 tonnes of Neonicotinoids on the land.
  • There is a lot of evidence that sublethal dose of Neonicotinoids severely affects insects.
    • A sublethal dose can affect their navigation system
    • A sublethal dose can damage their immune system.
  • It is a systemic insecticide so it is taken up by the whole plant- leaves, flowers, pollen, nectar, fruit.
  • If spread on pelleted seeds only 5% is taken up by that plant.
  • 95% remains in the soil or washed into streams and aquifers.
  • It is not just bees that are affected - all insects are affected.
  • It is an insecticide - it is designed to kill insects.
  • Bees can be seen as the equivalent of the canary in the coal mine.
  • This derogation may mean there is less incentive to find alternatives.
  • So far we have selectively bred Sugar Beet strains for yield not resistance.
  • This is a prophylactic use of insecticide - apply it in case we get get a problem.
  • Why not grow less sugar and replace it with fruit and veg?
  • Obesity is costing this country £27 billion per year.
  • Carbon footprint of sugar beet less than that of sugar cane.
  • Farmers are advised by agronomists on crop treatments.
  • Between 50% and 80% are tied to chemical companies.
  • Alternatives include:
    • Accept a lower yield
    • Grow something else instead
    • Breed different varieties of sugar beet
    • Use natural aphid predators.
    • Use less sugar - and that is down to all of us.
  • DEFRA have advised the removal of flowering plants from treated field margins.
    • This is to prevent insects being poisoned
    • Instead of them being poisoned they can be starved!
    • A scorched earth policy!

There may be alternatives to neonicotinoids but there are no alternatives to bees.

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