British honeybees exposed to more pesticides than 25 years ago


British honeybees are now exposed to six times greater levels of pesticides than 26 years ago, according to a study analyzing UK government pesticide statistics released on July 19. 

While the total weight of pesticides applied in Great Britain fell by 48 percent between 1990 to 2015, and modern pesticides have been deemed safer (Biology Fortified) by industry-related groups (SourceWatch), the area treated with pesticides almost doubled in this time, as did the number of times pesticides were applied.

Most importantly, one of the authors of the paper, Dave Goulson, told WikiTribune “the pesticides being used today are more toxic.”

The paper he co-authored says that assuming the same proportion of pesticides come into contact with bees as they did 26 years ago, the risk posed by pesticides to honeybees, wild bees and other pollinators is six times greater. Goulson told WikiTribune that while his assumption is a “big one” that “there is no reason to believe that the exposure of bees to pesticides is lower than it used to be.”

He said the amount of pesticides that come into contact with bees is a very small. However, Gouslon said if  honeybees were exposed to the amount of pesticides used each year in Britain it would be enough to kill about 30,000,000,000,000,000 bees – many times more than the estimated 3 trillion honeybees in the world.

Bees are important as they pollinate roughly 70 of the 100 crops feeding 90 percent of the globe (UNEP) and provide a service worth at least €22 billion a year to European agriculture (European Commission).

Three neonicotinoids, which Goulson says are particularly toxic, were banned by the EU after a 2018 review concluded they were a risk to bees.

See WikiTribune‘s coverage of the neonicotinoids debate. 

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