Defra accused of bad science regarding Neonicotinoids research used to counter EU vote

Rozie Apps
Thursday, 6th June 2013

The UK government caused controversy when they opposed the ban on Neonicotinoids by the EU this spring. But now scientists claim the Government's justification for opposition is flawed.

The British Government has been accused of abusing science in their research into the affects of Neonicotinoids.

Leading scientists in the UK and the EU have strongly criticised the research by the UK Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera which is a part of Defra, the Department for the Environment, Farming and Agriculture) which was used by the Government to justify their opposition to the ban on the three pesticides. The EU have found several weaknesses in the report, believing the authors have interpreted the results to reach their own conclusions.

Research has shown links between Neonicotinoids, used as nerve agent pesticides, and a drop in bee populations. Bees play a huge role in our food cycle through pollination.

Their opposition failed however, with 15 out of 27 member states voting for the two-year restriction and will be implemented from December 1st this year.

Professor David Goulson is a bee researcher at the University of Sussex and has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles on insects. He told the Independent: "The Fera study is full of holes and is totally flawed," explaining that most research into the pesticide debate is published in journals to encourage peer-reviewing. Fera's research was not published this way but online instead. "That's not how science proceeds," Professor Goulson added.

Other scientists believe Fera's research should not be presented to the public until it has been peer-reviewed.

The Independent also state the government favoured Fera's research over an indepth study by its cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) three weeks before the vote in April which strongly recommended the ban. A spokesperson from Defra told the Independent, that Fera's study was robust scientific work and that all new studies are a useful contribution. They added that the body of evidence does not show that Neonicotinoids pose an unacceptable risk to bees.

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