Glad we’ve cleared that up

From Guy Smith’s Twitter feed (@essexpeasant):

@bbcfarmingtoday please note that reports I mentioned on your prog of 70% of the Swedish OSR crop being destroyed by flea beetle were wrong

and

Now seen transcript and fully admit what I said was wrong. Apologies. Will not be repeating it again.

Well done to Guy, NFU Vice-President, for apologising quite quickly over this error. But I wonder how many listeners to the programme will keep the erroneous report in their heads all the same?

Well done to Buglife for flushing this out. It seems that the reduction in yield was due to a reduction in the area planted, largely caused by weather rather than insect plagues when neonics weren’t available.

This from the Buglife blog:

Matt Shardlow CEO of Buglife said ‘UK farmers should be reassured that the claimed Swedish ‘yield losses’ are in fact simply changes in planting decisions, partly resulting from favourable weather and there has not been a devastating resurgence of pests in the absence of neonicotinoid seed treatments’.

This revelation comes on top of two recent reviews of scientific evidence that have failed to find improvements in crop yields as a result of neonicotinoid use and the failure at a recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee of a Bayer spokesman to name a single published, peer reviewed scientific paper showing that neonicotinoids improved crop yields.

– See more at: http://www.buglife.org.uk/news-%26-events/news/buglife-exposes-misleading-claims-swedish-oil-seed-rape-yield-loss#sthash.rxhVQeuL.dpuf

Matt Shardlow CEO of Buglife said ‘UK farmers should be reassured that the claimed Swedish ‘yield losses’ are in fact simply changes in planting decisions, partly resulting from favourable weather and there has not been a devastating resurgence of pests in the absence of neonicotinoid seed treatments’.

This revelation comes on top of two recent reviews of scientific evidence that have failed to find improvements in crop yields as a result of neonicotinoid use and the failure at a recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee of a Bayer spokesman to name a single published, peer reviewed scientific paper showing that neonicotinoids improved crop yields.

Matt Shardlow CEO of Buglife said ‘UK farmers should be reassured that the claimed Swedish ‘yield losses’ are in fact simply changes in planting decisions, partly resulting from favourable weather and there has not been a devastating resurgence of pests in the absence of neonicotinoid seed treatments’.

This revelation comes on top of two recent reviews of scientific evidence that have failed to find improvements in crop yields as a result of neonicotinoid use and the failure at a recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee of a Bayer spokesman to name a single published, peer reviewed scientific paper showing that neonicotinoids improved crop yields.

– See more at: http://www.buglife.org.uk/news-%26-events/news/buglife-exposes-misleading-claims-swedish-oil-seed-rape-yield-loss#sthash.rxhVQeuL.dpuf

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15 Replies to “Glad we’ve cleared that up”

  1. and why didn't the BBC check such an important stat before broadcast? not a live interview was it? let's get 'more or less' on the case...

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  2. pyrethroids will be used at least twice post emergence of oilseed rape this autumn. If anyone thinks that farmers are going to risk crop failures and the associated risks involved in replanting they are sadly misinformed. How this is a move towards a greater ecological profile alludes me totally. Still I suppose that BugLife know what they're doing, after all they are farming experts. Or not

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    1. Not.

      Irregardless - the fan is getting battered from all the stuff hitting it. See link in Richard Ebbs post @10.53 carried over from Wednesday's Gaianurd, and a series of papers emerging from TFSP's Worldwide Integrated Assessment at this link: http://www.tfsp.info/worldwide-integrated-assessment/. And Dave Goulson's review in J.App.Ecol. June 2013. And his blog. And Tennekes. And van Dijk. And Mineau and Palmer. Google and ye shall find.

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  3. This interesting report is in today's (Thursday) Guardian

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/09/neonicotinoids-farmland-birds

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  4. The amount of unchecked disinformation currently coming out of the NFU on this issue is a disgrace. The problem lies with the NFU putting the interests of their agribusiness partners before the interests of their farmer members. It is possible for competent farms with the help of competent agronomists to manage the pest threat to crops without damaging the environment, killing beneficial insects, threatening the survival of farmland birds and losing the respect of the general public.

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  5. Mud sticks unfortunately. When doing an eco tour recently in the Highlands I was more than once asked about the 'accidental' poisoning of red kites by the RSPB at their feeding station here, despite it being an entirely baseless rumour. Guy Smith's comments were probably an innocent mistake, but people will remember it, despite his retraction.

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  6. Like some other debates the neonicotinoid debate has become very polarised with exaggerated claims on both sides. Refreshing to see someone actually admit that they got something wrong. In standing up for neonics the NFU is being made out to be the baddie here but I think it is right that somebody lobbies for preventing the ban of too many pesticides. We are losing active ingredients all the time and most of these bans are necessary to protect the environment and people. We need someone however to question these bans as we might lose useful chemicals which could have been used safely just by making some adjustments in their use.

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    1. Andy - I think that's a very fair point. Let's say neonics are awful (just for argument's sake), the question then is were their forerunners even more awful? And if they were, why go back? And if they were - how do we go forward? In the medium term, we need much better, environmentally 'less-unfriendly' chemicals - but where will they come from? And what to do in the short term in the meantime?

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      1. How about having a regulatory system that is completely independent of the companies that develop pesticides and toxicity testing that goes beyond lethality to obvious cuddly species. For starters.

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  7. Might help us regular commenters if we knew a bit about eachother's perspectives. To start things off: I worked for a few years in bio-medical research and am quite knowledgeable about ecology, but have never worked for a green NGO, or in farming. Am member of RSPB and John Muir Trust and believe very much in the value of all living things. Not a member of any political party, don't usually vote Tory, although I agree with some of their perspectives (only some!). Believe the world's two biggest problems are over-consumption and over-population, esp. o-p in countries like ours where we consume so much per head. Do you know it takes half as much land again as the area of the UK to support our population? i.e. about another 47,000 square miles. (Wildlife Trusts figure.)

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    1. Half as much again equates roughly to what could be saved if we stopped throwing away a third of the food we buy. And that is only from retail purchase - we don't get told about the volume that is ploughed back in when it is a couple of nanometres out of spec.. Tesco, BOGOF.

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  8. All good comments apart from Peter who seems to think that farmers are incompetent destroyers of the environment.

    The fact is that there is no willingness on either side to compromise. On one side you have an EU regulatory policy which is determined to unwind most of the advances made over the past few decades in agriculture and views GM and pesticides as inherently wrong and on the other side you have an increasingly concentrated agricultural sector who are required to produce more with ever decreasing resources.

    No one is prepared for any bluesky thinking. Why not allow GM and make the yield benifits conditional on releasing more arable land areas for pollinators ? The technology is there to do it Mark (ref your point about better chemicals) eg GM sugar beet out yields conventional by 25% as less chemicals are used on the crop and less damage is done to the growing plant. Give half the extra yield to the crop and prorata the rest to say pollinating strips in the same fields. Why not ? Everyone wins. Take the idea further, allow reduced rates of Neonics conditional on conservation headlands etc.

    Sorry I was dreaming when I wrote this. It will never happen as there's too much water gone under the bridge with the NGOs and NFU.

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  9. Julian - pyrethroid use did not decline with the introduction of neonicotinoids, it will be interesting to see if use increases next year when we are fully into the partial ban. If farmers hold their nerve and only spray in response to trigger counts of pests then I suspect we won't see a big increase.

    Donald - Guy's comments may have been an innocent mistake, but there are quite a few mistakes and they all lie on one side of the line - find out more - Why is the NFU Misleading Farmers and Government About Neonicotinoids? http://www.buglife.org.uk/blog/matt-shardlow-ceo/why-nfu-misleading-farmers-and-government-about-neonicotinoids#sthash.EOTSGOTM.dpuf

    Andy - absolutely supportive of debate and defense of interests, but does have to be evidence based doesn't it?

    Mark - Pyrethroids not systemic, not persistent, no dust, not in pollen and nectar long history of extensive use with little evidence of terrestrial ecology impacts. The harder question is how we get the balance right between maintaining yields and minimising use to avoid the evolution of resistance to the chemicals. Don't forget that managing small predators - e.g. beetle banks - and cultivation methods are also on the list of options.

    Filbert - the market is indeed dysfunctional.

    Julian - ironically it is only the EC that is brokering a line between a complete ban and no action. It was the EC that proposed the risk management measurements as a result of the EFSA risk assessment - although I would argue that deciding to allow planting and dust exposure in July and August did not sufficiently address the risk to pollinators. The UK Government has been completely unhelpful in maintaining a resolutely pro-pesticide approach to discussions.

    I should add that from the start i.e. Buglife's scientific review - Kindemba 2009 - we have highlighted the risk to aquatic fauna. The UK Government and the EU have yet to engage at all on this issue.

    Now that the scientific evidence of persistent soil pollution, polluted pollen and nectar in hedgerow and headland plants and impacts to birds and aquatic life is building up there will have to be a further attempt to manage these risks - i.e. further limit the use of neonicotinoids.

    GMOs may have a role to play but the UK Government's enthralled, unquestioning dedication to GMOs is as damaging to trust and rationality as those who oppose GMOs on principle

    P.S. I thought Peter might be a farmer!

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  10. Dear Matt,

    If there's time pre harvest I'm going to invite you to come and visit one of our farms if your interested ? I think you will be quite surprised how a bit of thinking outside the confines of the trench warfare we are all engaged in has produced some amazing results..........I think this farm will be of particular interest to you since the focus on this farm is very much "Buglife" orientated.

    I will check back here latter this weekend and if your up for it we can arrange a date, it might have to be latter in the year depending on how busy we get next week.

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