RSC responds to Waitrose ban on neonicotinoid pesticides

12 April 2013

Professor Jim Iley, Executive Director for Science and Education at the Royal Society of Chemistry said:

"The plummeting bee population is of great concern, both because of the decline of the species and because of the consequences for nature and for humans.

"However, in the debate about the cause of the bee decline, the role of neonicotinoid pesticides has yet to be proven. Gaps in the data from real-life field studies means that we cannot yet conclusively say that pesticides are to blame for this phenomenon.

"It is difficult to attribute cause and effect where the science is uncertain. If the cause of a problem is wrongly diagnosed, precautionary action aimed at reducing the risk may be inappropriate and ineffective, and for this reason an outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides without full evidence is of great concern to the RSC.

"Waitrose have announced today that they are halting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on crops destined for their shelves. This type of pesticide has been the insecticide of choice over recent years because they are less toxic to mammals than earlier alternatives, so any pesticide products Waitrose choose to use in their place should not have a detrimental effect on any other wildlife beyond bees and other pollinators.

"What is significant about the announcement today though is that while Waitrose are halting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides as a precautionary measure, they are investing in research at the University of Exeter to further understand the impact of combinations of neonicotinoids and other pesticides on pollinators. This evidence-based approach is to be highly commended.

"The RSC awaits with deep interest the outcome of further research on the risks associated with using these types of pesticides.

"This is an emotive topic, quite understandably. The bee is a vital part of our environment and of agriculture, therefore its decline must be addressed, whatever the root of the problem." 

Contact and Further Information

Victoria Steven
Media Relations Executive
Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BA
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7440 3322