Experts comment on global study findings of neonicotinoid traces in honey

A global study of honey found 75 per cent of samples had traces of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been implicated in the global decline of pollinators, particularly bees.

Published in Science, the research found concentrations of the pesticide were below the amount authorised by the European Union for human consumption. Concentrations were highest in European, North American and Asian samples and 34 per cent of samples were found to have levels of neonicotinoids known to be detrimental to bees.

The UK SMC gathered expert reaction to the study, which has been published by the New Zealand Science Media Centre.

Among the comments, Dr Chris Connolly, Reader in Neurobiology at the University of Dundee, who wrote a Perspectives article published alongside the research, said:

“This is a very interesting and timely study into how widespread is the exposure of honeybees to neonicotinoids. The findings are alarming, neonicotinoids have become so globally ubiquitous that they are now present in 75% of all honey. The levels of these chemicals detected in honey are unlikely to be a hazard to human health as they are present at very low levels and below the limit authorised for human consumption. At these low levels, they are also not likely to be lethal to bees. However, the levels detected are sufficient to affect bee brain function and may hinder their ability to forage on, and pollinate, our crops and our native plants.

“Clearly, the use of neonicotinoids need to be controlled. Their widespread use on crops is due to their prophylactic use, as insurance against the possibility of future pest attack. The neonicotinoids are highly effective insecticides with low toxicity to humans, but this unnecessary overuse is also driving the development of pest resistance against them. It is time that these chemicals are heavily restricted for use. In this way, their impact on the environment can be limited and their efficacy against pests preserved for when there is no other alternative option.

“An interesting point raised in this study is that honey could be used as a tool to sample environmental contamination. Therefore, this approach could address the effectiveness of the current EU moratorium where the use of some neonicotinoids on bee-visited crops is banned. Is honey within the EU now free of these neonicotinoids? Or does its continued use on other crops reach bee-visited plants and still accumulate in their honey?”

Other comments can be found in the NZ Science Media Centre post HERE.

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