Don’t link bird decline and use of neonicotinoids

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A letter by a group of scientists on declines in insectivorous birds prepared for Nature magazine and posted online resulted in a response by Bayer CropScience because the company contends there is no demonstrated “causal link between the use of neonicotinoids and the development of bird populations in Europe.”

The letter suggests a possible link between the use of this family of insecticides and a decline in bird populations. As is the case with the Nature magazine and online content, the letter or technical white paper is written in scientific analysis jargon and only available to read by subscribing. Pointing blame at neonicotinoids for more environmental concerns has Bayer trying to counter with its own scientific conclusions.

Bayer’s response follows:

“Neonicotinoids have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions.

“The letter makes no proper attempt to account for other possible sources of the reported decline such as climate change or nutrition. On the latter, two of the authors, van Turnhout and Foppen, in 2010 actually concluded that ‘trophic mismatches may have become a major cause for population declines in long-distance migrants in highly seasonal habitats.’ The authors’ conclusion was for forests but agricultural areas are even more seasonal.

“The authors’ assertions ignore the fact that most of the bird species mentioned are not foraging to a large extent on insects emerging from water bodies. Skylarks, for instance, predominantly feed on ground dwelling beetles. Birds living close to aquatic habitats – the species hypothetically affected most by concentrations of neonicotinoids in surface water – show no or negligible negative impact.

“The letter refers to a publication by van Dijk et al (2013) as scientific source which was recently rebutted by peer scientists on methods used and conclusions reached. In addition, the Dutch authority responsible for authorization of crop protection products, Ctgb, concluded ‘that this study cannot be used to show a causal relationship between the concentration on imidacloprid and the number of observed species.’

“In conclusion, the letter to Nature provides no substantiated evidence of the alleged indirect effects of imidacloprid on insectivorous birds. Bayer CropScience is working with the Dutch authorities and agricultural stakeholders to ensure the safe use of imidacloprid-containing crop protection products and to preserve the environment.”


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Tom    
USA  |  July, 10, 2014 at 06:07 PM

"Bayer CropScience is working with the Dutch authorities and agricultural stakeholders to ensure the safe use of imidacloprid-containing crop protection products and to preserve the environment.” This is strange; I thought the Netherlands had recently banned all Neonicotinoids.

Ontariobee    
Ontario  |  July, 11, 2014 at 08:40 AM

In Canada Clothianidin was given a conditional registration in 2004 pending research to show its safety and effectiveness. The first study was discounted by EPA and Health Canada for major flaws. So here we are 10 years later still no significant research. 'Extensive risk assessment'? Hardly. Meanwhile 50scientists from around the world have examined 800 studies showing negative impact of neonics. What happened to evidenced based decisionmaking? Time for a moratorium on these toxic chemicals. And regulatory reform.

Bob    
MD  |  July, 14, 2014 at 04:07 PM

It would be nice if this article was labelled as an editorial or paid advertisement, since it's clearly one or the other.

Dave    
Santa Maria  |  July, 15, 2014 at 07:03 AM

Merely having a flack and/or legal counsel at the manufacturer's head office write a letter does not constitute meaningful research.

ChemieBabe    
California  |  July, 15, 2014 at 12:34 PM

I am pretty sure that "National Geographic" did an excellent article on the subject of the dwindling bird populations of Europe and North Africa in 2013 or early 2014. The article pretty much said that the citizens of these nations were slaughtering birds indiscriminately for sport and in some cases food. It was a very sad article. Maybe some of my brethren in the scientific communities should read this article, just saying.

Bill    
July, 19, 2014 at 09:36 AM

“Neonicotinoids have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions”. This statement from Bayer is straight up BS, the seeds are purchased pretreated and planted in the ground, the only way to use them irresponsibly is if you decide to eat them.


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