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Response to letter sent to Hilary Benn MP

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Somerford 

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Here is the response from an emailed letter sent to Hilary Benn, MP I penned some 4 weeks ago. You will no doubt spot it was passed to someone else to answer which smacks of ignorance on the part of The Minister (well until the 6th May anyway!!)

Comments....... ?!

Dear Mr Auty,



Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding neonicotinoid pesticides, the regulatory approval process, and the new active substance spirotetramat, which you sent to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn. I have been asked to respond on the Minister’s behalf because the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the Government body responsible for regulating pesticides in the UK.



Turning first of all to the general issue of pesticides and bees, it might be helpful if I described how scrutiny of pesticides is carried out before they are approved for use. Controls on pesticides work at a number of levels, initially by identifying and managing risk. Under EU pesticides legislation, pesticide active substances are evaluated at Community level. If an active substance meets EU safety requirements the products containing that active substance can then be authorised at Member State level, taking into account that country’s individual agronomic, climatic and dietary requirements.



In the UK, pesticides can only be sold or used after they have been approved by Government Ministers following review by the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides. As part of this approval process, the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) of the Health and Safety Executive carries out checks to ensure the risks that can arise from the use of these products are not unacceptable. This will include an assessment of the toxicity of each product and the ways in which spray operators, the public or environment (in particular honey bees) may be exposed to it. We routinely restrict the way products can be used (e.g. specifying dose rates, timing and place of application) to ensure protection of human health and the environment.



Moving on to the issue of neonicotinoids, four EU Member States have placed restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids. There were very specific circumstances in Germany involving neonicotinoid seed treatments that led to the incidents of significant losses of bees in 2008, including the use of insufficient sticker to hold the pesticide onto the seed and the timing of sowing of treated seed (at the same time as neighbouring flowering crops). Initially the German authorities withdrew approval for eight products used on maize and oilseed rape but since then, Germany has re-instated the use of four products containing imidacloprid (one of this group of pesticides) for use on oilseed rape. Later in the year, Italy and Slovenia took action on similar products. The Slovenian action followed incidents similar to those in Germany, but the Italian action, as far as we are aware, is based on the German experience, and is a precautionary measure while it develops a monitoring system similar to the UK Government’s Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS). As you point out, France has had its own restrictions on use of certain neonicotinoid pesticides since the 1990’s, but does authorise their use on a number of arable crops, fruits and vegetables.



That said, Defra is investigating reports of honeybee colony losses as a high priority. Over the last two years Britain’s bee colonies have suffered significant losses due to a combination of factors including the poor spring/summer weather, the varroa mite, and other husbandry issues. Recently, the National Bee Unit has been investigating the causes of cases of significant colony losses. Analysis of the results of this research shows that the most important risk factor in the mortality or weakening of colonies is Deformed Wing Virus, a virus transmitted by the parasitic Varroa mite, clearly indicating failed or unsuccessful treatments of mite infestations. This highlights the importance of improving standards of husbandry and is in agreement with results from earlier studies investigating abnormal colony losses in 2007. The impact of mite infestations was exacerbated by the unfavourable weather conditions over the last two years which did not allow colonies to prosper.



Turning now to your concerns about spirotetramat, the US Court’s recent decision to revoke approval of use of spirotetramat in the USA was based on a procedural consultation oversight by the US Environment Protection Agency, and not because of any concerns about the active substance itself. There is a product containing spirotetramat approved for use in the UK following its assessment under the same rigorous evaluation process as I described above. There is no evidence to suggest that responsible use of spirotetramat poses a risk to bee health.



Finally, as part of its pesticides research programme the Government is funding a number of projects in support of the development of the pesticides risk assessment process. Some of these specifically relate to the potential impact of pesticides on honeybees, both from wide scale professional use and home-garden use of insecticides. These projects are still in progress. Previous work on the risk posed to honeybees by systemic insecticides, such as imidacloprid, has fed into international risk assessment models for honeybees.



CRD will continue to be involved with the development of bee risk assessment methodology, particularly through the revision by the European Plant Protection Office. CRD would, of course, act on any substantive evidence should incidents occur in the UK and will continue to keep abreast of research and developments in other EU Member States and elsewhere to see if they are relevant to the UK.



Yours sincerely



Kerry Hutchinson

Policy Implementation Team

Chemicals Regulation Directorate

Health and Safety Executive, York
 

Hivemaker. 

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Very polite reply to your letter, everything well explained in detail.
 
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Brosville 

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"Turning now to your concerns about spirotetramat, the US Court’s recent decision to revoke approval of use of spirotetramat in the USA was based on a procedural consultation oversight by the US Environment Protection Agency, and not because of any concerns about the active substance itself. There is a product containing spirotetramat approved for use in the UK following its assessment under the same rigorous evaluation process as I described above. There is no evidence to suggest that responsible use of spirotetramat poses a risk to bee health"

"same rigorous evaluation process" - means "taking the maker's word for it"

"not because of any concerns about the active substance itself" should be qualified by " by the poison's makers", and they then go on to suggest a substance proven to be highly damaging at the brood stage is "pure as mother's milk"....... makes a fella want to spit!

I've said it before, I'll say it again - DEFRA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Agrochem:rant:

It's all the varroa mite and bad husbandry - pish tosh and brown envelopes!
 

taff.. 

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Here is the response from an emailed letter sent to Hilary Benn, MP I penned some 4 weeks ago. You will no doubt spot it was passed to someone else to answer which smacks of ignorance on the part of The Minister (well until the 6th May anyway!!)

Comments....... ?!
why does it smack of ignorance?

Hillary Benn is a politician not a scientist, he forwarded you questions on to the person who a)understands what your asking and b)is able to give you a full answer which presumably HB is not able to do.


it looks like a very good reply which had obviously taken some time to write :)




"same rigorous evaluation process" - means "taking the maker's word for it"
are you sure about that?

we (as in the place I work) spend a considerable amount of public money to independently check manufacturers data.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - DEFRA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Agrochem:rant:

It's all the varroa mite and bad husbandry - pish tosh and brown envelopes !

serious allegation.

got any proof?

we'd be very interested in seeing it
 

Brosville 

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I spent awhile farming, long enough to learn that the Min of AG and Fish (as it was in those days) was totally "in the pockets" of the major agrochemical companies, and I faced a lonely and hostile time from them as I chose to eschew "chemicals" - nothing would appear to have changed.......
Are you telling me with a totally straight face that Spirotetramat has been totally independently and FULLY tested for safety for humans, wildlife and bees within the UK before being passed as "fit for use"?, and could you perhaps explain slowly and gently to me how, if we have such a rigorous safety regime, that there are many people who were maimed for life, or died as a result of organophosphate poisoning - and for many years the government agencies denied loudly that there was any link............ (and STILL won't admit liability as it'll cost them a fortune in compensation)
 
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taff.. 

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I spent awhile farming, long enough to learn that the Min of AG and Fish (as it was in those days) was totally "in the pockets" of the major agrochemical companies, and I faced a lonely and hostile time from them as I chose to eschew "chemicals" - nothing would appear to have changed.......
Are you telling me with a totally straight face that Spirotetramat has been totally independently and FULLY tested for safety for humans, wildlife and bees within the UK before being passed as "fit for use"?, and could you perhaps explain slowly and gently to me how, if we have such a rigorous safety regime, that there are many people who were maimed for life, or died as a result of organophosphate poisoning - and for many years the government agencies denied loudly that there was any link............ (and STILL won't admit liability as it'll cost them a fortune in compensation)


I dont know, I'm not a DEFRA scientist, neither do I use the chemicals.

I dont know what the evaluation process involves but I would be very surprised if defra dont do ANY independent testing, as you suggest.

I'm not defending the chemicals, defra or the AG companies, the whole of the system doesn't quite seem right.

BUT

I dont throw alegations of wrong doing and brown envelope bribery around as you do.

unless you have proof to back up the rather serious alegations you are making, then maybe you shouldn't make them
 
T

Tom Bick 

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I dont throw alegations of wrong doing and brown envelope bribery around as you do.

unless you have proof to back up the rather serious alegations you are making, then maybe you shouldn't make them
Sorry bud its called political funding
 

Blodwen Price 

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Sorry bud its called political funding
And that is supposed to be conclusive proof? Just been looking on various webstes, for example, the Wales Green Party, they have a "donate" button on the front page. Pressing that would make me a provider of political funding, therefore proving that I'm bribing the party to push my agenda? ...No, of course not, throwaway comments are NOT proof, they don't even mean anything.
 

Busy Bee 

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serious allegation.

got any proof?

we'd be very interested in seeing it
WHO DO YOU WORK FOR TAFF!


In my limited intelect I would make the assumption the reply placed the blame squarely with the bees and poor bee husbandary (The Bee Keeper). It seems to me anything chemical or govenment involved is stoutly defended as I have a similar letter from DARD (N.I.) containing more or less the same blameless content.


Bust Bee
 

Blodwen Price 

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I've said it before, I'll say it again - DEFRA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Agrochem:rant:
Yes you did - you were wrong, when you say it again - you'll still be wrong....ad nauseam adding a "rant" emoticon just adds to the wrongness
 

Brosville 

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Call it brown envelopes, call it "incentivisation", call it "undue influence", whatever way you choose to sanitise it, the major agrochemical companies have "the powers that be" in the UK by the cojones - now whether that is because they are stupid or misguided, or "influenced" matters not a lot, what it boils down to is the fact that they enjoy a far too cosy relationship with the chemical companies, and often act as their apologists and their sales force......... We pay their salaries, and they should be acting on our behalf, NOT the major multinationals..........
And if you think that's bad, if Dave's Duckhouse brigade get elected (heaven forfend) my spies tell me that we'll have GM in very short order - there has been a feeding frenzy around the candidates by all the lobbyists........
Sadly, there's no money in organics, permaculture or sustainable practices in farming and horticulture, let alone bottomless pits of money to fund the lobbyists, so we have a very uphill battle - a government that was on OUR side for a change would help!
 

taff.. 

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WHO DO YOU WORK FOR TAFF!


In my limited intelect I would make the assumption the reply placed the blame squarely with the bees and poor bee husbandary (The Bee Keeper). It seems to me anything chemical or govenment involved is stoutly defended as I have a similar letter from DARD (N.I.) containing more or less the same blameless content.


Bust Bee
look at my profile
 

Brosville 

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the letter is thinly rehashed chemical company whitewash, no more, no less.......... bears a remarkable similarity to the weaselling nonsense I got from my MP on the same subject..........
 

buzz lightyear 

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just to stick my 10 pence worth in, for what its worth.
With respect to new drug trials for humans: The reality is that it is only when the drug hits the market that the rarer / obsqure adverse effects are identified, due to the physical number of subjects involved in field trials, (low) so surly the same must be true of animal drugs (whatever you want to call them). So, as in humans there must be an alert system (with us its called the Yellow card system), if so then should we not be using it. And if there isnt one (and I'm sure there must be) then why not!
I know someone in the know will be along to explain what monitoring is in place...
Cheers, Buzz
 

Somerford 

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why does it smack of ignorance?

Hillary Benn is a politician not a scientist, he forwarded you questions on to the person who a)understands what your asking and b)is able to give you a full answer which presumably HB is not able to do.

Because, in MY opinion, I penned a letter to the Minister. I did not expect nor desire a response from another party. I wrote the letter to ascertain HB's understanding of the subject, whether he fully grasped the issues - and while I agree it is a very polite response written by someone who appears to be aware of some of the issues, it doesn't answer my questions and doesn't provide the confidence I should have in a Minister responsible for Agriculture in the UK.

While HB is not a Scientist, he is a very well read individual and one who should have a thorough grasp of the brief he has been given.

For those of you who appear to support this response and attitude towards chemicals (and unfortunately there are more than those against, judging by the repies so far to this thread), I just hope that you will be prepared for the consequences of chemicals that don't break down, that end up in our ground water supplies, that start to cause toxic build up in food chains and ultimately poison us all.

regards

S
 

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Somerford,just out of interest,exactly which chemicals are you talking about,could you list all of them please.
 
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taff.. 

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Because, in MY opinion, I penned a letter to the Minister. I did not expect nor desire a response from another party. I wrote the letter to ascertain HB's understanding of the subject, whether he fully grasped the issues - and while I agree it is a very polite response written by someone who appears to be aware of some of the issues, it doesn't answer my questions and doesn't provide the confidence I should have in a Minister responsible for Agriculture in the UK.
I think its the responsible thing for the minister to pass the question on to a person that has the knowlege to answer the question fully rather than fobbing you off with an uneducated guess at what the answer should be.


For those of you who appear to support this response and attitude towards chemicals (and unfortunately there are more than those against, judging by the repies so far to this thread), I just hope that you will be prepared for the consequences of chemicals that don't break down, that end up in our ground water supplies, that start to cause toxic build up in food chains and ultimately poison us all.

regards

S

If you read back through my replies I have not said that I support the use of any chemicals.

What I have said is, if you have allegations to make then show us the proof to back up your argument, otherwise all you are doing is ranting on an internet forum.



I read threads like this to try and learn something, but when all I read is opinion with no fact to back up that opinion I find it difficult.
 

foobaamagic 

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I would have to say that delegation is the core of good management and the fact that HB has the skills as a manager (which is all he is) to delegate the writing of a response to your letter to someone with the knowledge and background to answer it sort of gives me a little more confidence in him than if I had received a less informed reply about the subject from HB himself.

I do not hold any unrealistic ideas that there is no communication between the powers that be and the multi national companies and I am sure there is some corruption in the system somewhere, but without proof the accusation just falls on deaf ears. Worse than this to continue accusing people without proof makes the argument more difficult to win as the accuser is merely dismissed as a trouble maker.

I may indeed agree with the original brown envelope comment but I have no proof of this and would not imply such a thing because of the damage it does to our ability to change things via the system in place. Much as we may not like it there is only one way to change things in this country and that is slowly and via the system.

Perhaps the difference will come when HB recieves 100 letters or a 1000 letters about the same subject in a year.
 
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Somerford 

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Perhaps the difference will come when HB recieves 100 letters or a 1000 letters about the same subject in a year.

That is indeed my idea - but apathay appears to be inbred in the beekeeping world like all others - I think I had 10 responses to my suggestion on another thread for a copy of my letter I was sending out. Very sad as we, as beekeepers, will only have ourselves to blame when chemical contamination reaches the point of no return.

S
 

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