Knowledge for better food systems

Role of pesticides in bee decline: scientists call for evidence-driven debate

An international panel of scientists is calling for an evidence-driven debate over whether a widely used type of insecticide is to blame for declines in bees and other insect pollinators.

The Oxford Martin School has published a "restatement" which takes this area of policy concern and controversy and attempts to set out the science evidence base in as policy neutral way as possible, while also providing a commentary on the nature of the evidence base. The aim, in clarifying the scientific evidence available on neonicotinoids is to enable different stakeholders to develop coherent policy and practice recommendations.

Abstract

There is evidence that in Europe and North America many species of pollinators are in decline, both in abundance and distribution. Although there is a long list of potential causes of this decline, there is concern that neonicotinoid insecticides, in particular through their use as seed treatments are, at least in part, responsible. This paper describes a project that set out to summarize the natural science evidence base relevant to neonicotinoid insecticides and insect pollinators in as policy-neutral terms as possible. A series of evidence statements are listed and categorized according to the nature of the underlying information. The evidence summary forms the appendix to this paper and an annotated bibliography is provided in the electronic supplementary material.

Citation

Godfray, H. C. J.,  Blacquière, T., Field, L. M., Hails, R. S., Petrokofsky, G., Potts, S. G., Raine, N. E., Vanbergen, A. J., McLean, A. R.,  A restatement of the natural science evidence base concerning neonicotinoid insecticides and insect pollinators, Proc. R. Soc. B. 2014, doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0558

The study is published open access in the Proceedings of the Royal Society here. You can also download it as a single pdf with the Annotated Bibliography. For more information see also the website of the Oxford Martin programme on the Future of Food.

More information on bees and pesticide use can be found here.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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