Insects and Insecticides
Written evidence submitted by Bayer CropScience Ltd
1. Bayer CropScience
Bayer CropScience is dedicated to the development and production of safe crop production solutions for the food and farming industry. It has a long history in the agricultural world both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world, and has developed to its current position as one of the world’s leading life science businesses via such well known names as Boots, Fisons, May & Baker, Schering, Hoechst, Rhône-Poulenc, AgrEvo and Aventis. Bayer CropScience employs 21,000 members of staff worldwide and approximately 170 in the UK. It is the UK’s biggest supplier of crop protection products.
Bayer CropScience is a member of the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and fully supports the submission of this association on this subject.
2. Understanding Bee Health
2.1 Bayer has a long history as a bee health company, especially in the provision of products to treat the main threat to honey bee health, namely Varroa destructor. The Varroa mite is perfectly adapted to the lifecycle of the honey bee feeding on its haemolymph, and acting as the key vector for viral diseases like Acute Paralysis Virus (APV) and Chronic Paralysis Virus (CPV). The wounds inflicted by mites may also be contaminated with bacterial or fungal organisms.
2.2 Broadly speaking, where the Varroa is present, bee health is compromised; where the mite is absent or controlled, bee health is good. In most of the tropical and subtropical regions of the Southern Hemisphere, honey bees are of the African or Africanized sort, and bee health is good, mainly because such bees are more able to deal with Varroa. Australia has the European honey bee and despite the use of insecticides in agriculture at a similar level of that found in Europe or North America, has the healthiest bees on the planet; as a result of strict biosafety protocols, the Varroa mite has yet to reach its shores.
2.3 Bayer has recently announced the opening of the Bee Care Center at its research campus in Monheim, where its activities in promoting bee health are focused, to include finding new solutions for bee health issues and state-of-the-art stewardship of its crop protection portfolio. A second facility will open in the US in 2013 (http://www.press.bayer.com/baynews/baynews.nsf/0/615EA2E1245E4277C12579AB0049D955 ).
3. Real field data
3.1 There have been many studies that have attempted to look at what happens away from the artificial environment of the laboratory, using real bee colonies, real beekeepers in real fields. Perhaps the two most frequently referred to, mainly because of the rigour and length of the studies, are the German Bee Monitoring study that started in 2004 and is still on-going, and a French study by AFSSA.
3.2 The German study has involved more than 1200 bee colonies from across the country, which have been monitored for the last eight years and bee health was compared to a number of factors including the presence of the Varroa mite, fungi such as Nosema and Ascosphaera, bacteria such as Paenibacillus, a number of viruses including the Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and the Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), environmental factors, beekeeping practices, and of course pesticides (interim results published by Genersch E, et al. (2010): The German bee monitoring project: a long term study to understand periodically high winter losses of honey bee colonies. Apidologie 41 (2010) 332–352). Poor bee health during this time correlated very well with Varroa and both the viruses mentioned above, and the age of the queen. No such correlations were observed between poor bee health and Nosema or pesticides. During this time, nectar, honey, pollen and bee bread samples were analysed for the presence of insecticides. Whilst it was possible to find trace amounts of pesticide, there was no correlation between pesticide presence and bee colony health. Note that the neonicotinoid clothianidin was not detected and imidacloprid was detected only once in the 215 samples collected from 2005–2007.
3.3 The second multifactorial study comes from France where the government agency, AFSSA, looked at 120 bee colonies from around France between 2002 and 2005. Where colony mortalities occurred, no statistical link was found between poor bee health and the presence of pesticide residues, with the control of Varroa being seen as absolutely key (http://www.anses.fr/PM9100V1I0.htm for the English summary and http://www.anses.fr/Documents/SANT-Ra-EnqueteAbeilles2005.pdf for the original study).
4. Impacts of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides on human health.
4.1 The European Union is recognised as having the strictest regulatory system anywhere in the world when it comes to plant protection products such a pesticides. As part of this process, "plant protection products are only approved in the EU if it may be expected that their use will not have any harmful effects on human and animal health or on groundwater or any unacceptable influence on the environment" (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/pesticides/pesticidespeerreview.htm )
4.2 The development of neonicotinoid insecticides represented a step change in a farmer’s or grower’s ability to control destructive pests and the diseases that they spread, using products of very low mammalian toxicity. For example, in the public version of the Draft Assessment Report, "according to the toxicological properties of imidacloprid, harmful effects on the health of operators, bystanders, workers or consumers are not expected when the plant protection product is used in accordance with good plant protection practice" (via http://dar.efsa.europa.eu/dar-web/provision.
4.3 Likewise, the review report for clothianidin, finalised in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health concluded "that plant protection products containing clothianidin will fulfil the safety requirements laid down in Article 5(1)(a) and (b) of Directive 91/414/EEC."
5. Impact of not having access to seed treatments
5.1 It is important to recognise that farmers use insecticides for a reason; they are expensive to buy and expensive to apply. They are used because farmers need to control damaging insects and the diseases that they spread, if they are to produce the ready supply of safe, high quality affordable food that consumers demand.
5.2 As previously mentioned, the arrival of innovative products such as the neonicotinoid insecticides was a step change in pesticide use in that they are comparatively very safe to mammals. Furthermore, their suitability as seed treatments means that farmers can control damaging insects in cereals, oilseed rape and other crops at the germination and early growth stages when they are at their most vulnerable, without resorting to the application of broad spectrum insecticides, which control not just those insects that are foraging on the crop but also many insects that use the crop as cover.
5.3 The impact of restricting such seed treatments needs therefore to be understood. For example, in years of high pest incidence, farmers may have to apply up to four extra spray applications of pyrethroids or other insecticides.
5.4 A recent survey of oilseed rape farmers in the UK on the consequences of losing such seed treatments suggest that 90% of them would need to apply more foliar sprays, 79% of them felt their yields would decrease, and 72% of them felt that there could be adverse environmental consequences.
5.5 It is also worthy of note that France has restricted the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments for over 10 years; despite this, bee health in France remains similar to, or worse than, that seen here in the UK.
6. What alternative pest-control measures could be used, such as natural predators and plant breeding for insect-resistance, in a bid to make UK farming more insect- and bee-friendly.
6.1 Bayer CropScience believes that integrated pest management (IPM) is a key technique for dealing with insect pests in an environmentally sustainable manner, and has recently completed the acquisition of AgraQuest Inc., a global supplier of innovative biological pest management solutions. IPM does, however, require effective tools to do the job.
6.2 Encouraging predatory insects has been an important facet of improving the farm landscape with the provision of beetle banks and uncut margins demonstrating their usefulness in this area
(http://www.gwct.org.uk/education__advice/english_entry_level_stewardship/habitat_issues/337.asp). Such provision should continue to be encouraged.
6.3 Biopesticides are becoming an area of interest although the focus has tended to be on glasshouse and orchard environments. That said, companies such as AgraQuest do supply extracts of fungi such as Chenopodium for field crops and Bacillus thurengensis has been widely used as an insecticide. This area will continue to flourish, as new opportunities arise.
6.4 The potential of innovative plant breeding in IPM is the subject of intense activity. Indeed, some of the most successful GM crops are insect tolerant varieties of crop plants, with 75 million hectares being planted with such varieties in 2011 (http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/43/pptslides/default.asp ). There has also been a recent flurry of activity in the UK in this area with the recent trials of aphid resistant wheat having been successfully harvested at Rothamsted (http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/Content.php?Section=AphidWheat).
5 November 2012