Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Pesticide problems

Phil over at Bonsai Basho towers has been a busy boy. He has finished the video for the azalea transformation. It can be seen here on You tube or if you pop over to www.bonsaibasho.com and register you can see them both plus an exclusive bit of text explaining what is going on.

We also did a video about the problem that has been facing a lot of people up and down the country this year, spider mites on Junipers. The video misses out a bit of the explaination of the problem so I will be adding text to it asap. but here it is. Please excuse the poor quality of explaination. It was all one cut stuff and some of it was unusable due to back ground interference.

Now the pesticide problem is one which I alluded to in my last post and it one which prompted a response regarding DDT. Now before we start I will state that I am all for the environment and living in close relation to the earth, I do not agree with widespread and unrestrained use of agro chemicals, I wish we didn't live in a world where demand for cheaper and standardised produce was driven by profit obsessed behemoths such as Tesco...that said, the myths and junk science that surround the DDT are legend showing us the fundamental difficulty with such issues. The problem lies with the burden of proof that is required by scientists, but not by environmental campaigners who are happy with anecdotal evidence and the policy makers who are at the mercy of lobbyists and voters. Sadly I fall somewhere between the two camps, I require a certain amount of proof, and in the case of the egg shell thinning of birds, for every research paper proving DDT was the cause in the dec line, there is another paper to prove that it wasn't.. A very good article can be found here which links to much of the evidence both for and against.

What is abundantly clear is that the anecdotal evidence of the post-war decline in predatory birds can be attributed to, but in a purely scientific way, it cannot be proved beyond doubt that DDT was the singular cause. The ban of its use on a widespread and unrestrained scale in the western world is a good thing, as shown by the increase in numbers of predatory birds throughout the world since the DDT ban.

This leads me to the point about Defra and the banning of pesticides seemingly at random. The lack of scientific rigour and common sense in their haphazard way of deciding what is good and what is bad is astounding.

Take the case of Bifenthrin, recently banned in the latest cull of chemicals. It was the active component of Rose Clear 3, a very useful contact pesticide. Bifenthrin is a Pyrethroid, a synthetic version of Pyrethrin, an organic chemical obtained from Chrsanthemum flowers. Both Bifenthrin and Pyrethrin are of low toxicity to mammals, but high toxicity to aquatic life. Neither are carcinogenic.

Bifenthrin was banned in the cull, but Pyrethrin is still available on the shelves of garden centres up and down the country. If Pyrethrin gets into the water system, it will just as fatal as Bifenthrin...just as fatal as bleach or Jeyes Fluid. If both build up in humans through consumption of crops which have been sprayed with it, neither will be dangerous. Apart from the slightly longer half life in soil of bifenthrin, what is the difference? Perhaps the word organic? More importantly, what is Rose Clear 4 now made from?

Careful examnation shows that the active ingredient is Acetamprid, which unlike bifenthrin, is a systemic insecticide, not a contact killer. It is a neonicotinoid, which is a synthetic replacement for Nicotine, a traditional pesticide. The problem lies with anecdotal evidence from France, Germany, Italy and Canada which prove a strong link between the use of neonicotinoids and the tremendous decline in Bee population.

Colony Collapse Disorder has been attributed to may things but there is a strong, yet unproven anecdotal link between the collapse of bee colonies and the presence of such pesticides as Acetamprid, the replacement for the relatively harmless Bifenthrin. As early ago as the 1990's French Bee Keepers made the link between the rise in the use of neonicotinoids and the decline of bees and honey production. Whilst Bifenthrin is toxic to bees if used indiscriminately and sprayed directly onto a colony, it does not have the same effect as Acetamprid.

One the one hand Defra claim to protect the countryside, one the other hand they are a Bureaucratic monster which does no good what so ever, causing more harm. On the decision to ban bifenthrin, from the Defra website...

"In March 2009, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health voted on the European Commission’s proposal for the non-inclusion of bifenthrin in Annex I of Directive 91/414/EEC. The Commission proposal for bifenthrin did not achieve a Qualified Majority agreement. Under Directive 91/414/EEC a “non-opinion” in Standing Committee means the dossier is referred to the Council, which then has three months to act. If a decision is not taken within three months, the Commission will adopt its original proposal by default."

Which means that because they couldn't be bothered to reach a majority vote either way, and nobody could be bothered to do any research to figure out what was worth doing. Agro Chemical companies couldn't be bothered to shoulder the burden of proof as they have many more toxic chemicals which are yet to be banned left to sell. It is not as if Defra don't have money to burn...£350 million wasted on a computer system that doesn't work , a rebranding and new website. All this while money to allow farmers to create land for birds to nest on and thrive in is desperately needed.

Through a complete lack of common sense and blind following of EU legislation and disregard for true science and direct observation, problems like this continue to occur. When the bee population of this country continues to decline, as more and more colonies collapse, the blame must surely lie with Defra. Their random nature shows a lack of leadership and policy.

That is why I think Defra are idiots.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't follow the links you left on the text. They appear to be broken:

    "Sorry that is not a valid web page name"