Nerve-agent pesticides should not be banned in Britain despite four separate scientific studies strongly linking them to sharp declines in bees around the world, Government scientists have advised.
An internal review of recent research on neonicotinoids – pesticides that act on insects' central nervous systems and are increasingly blamed for problems with bee colonies – has concluded that no change is needed in British regulation.
The British position contrasts sharply with that of France, which in June banned one of the pesticides, thiamethoxam. French scientists said it was impairing the abilities of honeybees to find their way back to their nests. The Green MP Caroline Lucas described the British attitude as one of "astonishing complacency".
The French research was published in March in the journal Science at the same time as another study by British researchers from the University of Stirling, implicating neonicotinoids in the decline of bumblebees. In January, the US government's chief bee researcher published a study showing that imidacloprid makes honeybees more susceptible to disease, even at doses so low as to be barely detectable. And in April, a team from Harvard claimed that imidacloprid was the culprit in colony collapse disorder.