By Joe Sandler Clarke
Scientists have found for the first time that neonicotinoid pesticides can harm honey bees in the real world.
The major new study from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) found that pesticides called neonicotinoids can cause harm to bees, a development that is likely to increase calls for a ban of the chemicals across Europe.
The UK—which has long lobbied against a ban—could make its own rules on pesticide use after Brexit.
Conservative MEP Julie Girling recently tried unsuccessfully to derail the Commission's efforts to introduce an outright ban in the EU Parliament.
The finding is particularly significant because the study was funded in part by pesticides giants Bayer and Syngenta.
The hotly anticipated research, published in the journal Science this evening, also discovered that exposure to the nicotine-based chemicals can reduce the reproductive success of three different bee species—honey bees, bumblebees and the red mason bee.
With £3 million in funding from the chemical companies and additional money from Natural Environment Research Council, the researchers were able to conduct a large scale, field-realistic experiment across three different European countries—UK, Germany and Hungary.
Previous experiments showing that neonicotinoids cause harm to bees have been criticised by industry because of their limited scope and test conditions not mimicking real life.
The researchers exposed three bee species to winter oilseed rape crops treated with two types of neonicotinoids, manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta.
The researchers found that neonics affected bees in different ways from country to country, with the impact of the chemicals more marked in Hungary and the UK than in Germany, where neonics were found to have no impact on honey bees.
Overall, clothianidin, manufactured by Bayer, was found to have a more profound impact on bee health.
CEH scientists acknowledged that the results of the study were nuanced.
In a press release, CEH lead author Dr. Ben Woodcock explained: "The neonicotinoids investigated caused a reduced capacity for all three bee species to establish new populations in the following year, at least in the UK and Hungary."
Prof. Richard Pywell, the co-author of the study, said in a statement that the results of the research were complex.
"Neonicotinoids remain a highly contentious issue with previous research on both honeybees and wild bees inconclusive.
"This latest field study was designed, as far as possible, to reflect the real world due to its size and scope. We therefore believe it goes a considerable way to explaining the inconsistencies in the results of past research, as we were better able to account for natural variation in factors like exposure to the pesticide, bee food resources and bee health for different bee species.
"Our findings also raise important questions about the basis for regulatory testing of future pesticides."
A Bayer spokesperson told Energydesk the company was disappointed with way the results had been presented.
He said: "This study is one of a number of landscape studies carried out recently. The results of the CEH study are inconsistent and therefore inconclusive with variability of effects over both the bee species and the countries in which they were studied.
"We believe that had environmental factors (colony strength and landscape effects) other than exposure to treated oilseed rape been appropriately taken into account in the analysis, the results would have been similar to, for example, recent landscape studies conducted with clothianidin in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, a state in northern Germany which demonstrated the safety of clothianidin seed treatments in oilseed rape for bee pollinators under realistic conditions."
In a statement sent to Energydesk, Syngenta were keen to highlight the findings of the study in Germany where neonics had no impact on honey bees.
Dr. Peter Campbell, head of research collaborations at the company said: "We welcome the fact that the study concludes that 'neonicotinoid residues were detected infrequently ... [and] direct mortality effects by exposure to high concentrations of neonicotinoids are likely to be rare'. We were also pleased to see that in Germany during crop flowering, the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments has a positive and beneficial impact for both honeybees and bumblebees."
The statement continued: "It is also important to better understand the small number of potentially harmful effects reported in Hungary and the United Kingdom and how these differ from Germany where the results were positive."
Neonicotinoids are the most widely used pesticides in the world.
A partial ban on neonicotinoids has been in place across the EU since 2013, due to concerns about the pesticide's impact on bee health.
Recent news reports suggest that the European Commission will call for a complete ban later this year.
The UK has long lobbied against the ban against neonics in Brussels. Back in 2015, the government allowed some uses of the chemicals on UK fields, following pressure from the National Farmers Union, but a similar request was turned down last year.
Uncertainty surrounds what the UK's position will be on the controversial pesticides post-Brexit.
In response to the release of the CEH study, a spokesperson from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs failed to back an outright ban:
"Bees and other pollinators are vital to the diversity of our environment and food production which is why we are leading a nationwide strategy to better protect them.
"We are encouraging farmers to provide the food and habitats pollinators need on their land, as well as promoting simple actions the public can take to help such as cutting grass less often and growing pollen-rich plants."
This study follows on from research published last summer by CEH, which linked neonics to the long-term decline of the wild bee population in the UK.
Back in September, Energydesk uncovered private studies commissioned by Bayer and Syngenta which showed that their neonicotinoid pesticides can cause serious harm to bees.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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