Wildlife campaigners are warning that harmful neonicotinoid pesticide levels can be found in rivers around England, according to new research published today (22 September).

The warning comes as environmental groups wait to hear if one banned toxic neonicotinoid pesticide – Thiamethoxam – will be approved by the Government for English sugar beet farm use for a fourth consecutive year. This issue was discussed at the latest meeting of the Expert Committee on Pesticides on 12 Sept and it is likely the Government is currently considering its decision on the use of Thiamethoxam (in Cruiser SB) for 2024 crops.

The Rivers Trust and Wildlife and Countryside Link conducted new analysis of neonicotinoid pesticides using official Environment Agency data from the last three years (2020-2022), for the ‘Chemical Cocktail’ campaign, and found that [1]:

  • 1 or more of 5 harmful neonicotinoids analysed were found in more than 1 in 10 English river sites tested by the Environment Agency (29 of 283 sites) [2]
  • At 55% of these 29 sites one or more neonics were above the EU’s proposed Environmental Quality Standard (EQS) – the level deemed safe for aquatic wildlife. With 21% of sites having one or more neonics at over 4 times the safe level.
  • The neonics Clothianidin and Imidacloprid were most prevalent and most exceeded the proposed EQS. 28% of Clothianidin site detections and 47% of Imidacloprid site detections were over the proposed EU safe levels. See embargoed maps and data
  • The highest neonic concentrations were detected in the East of England, South East and West Mids in rivers including the Rivers Ivel, Waveney, Nene, Ouse and Tame. The highest number of neonics found at single sites were detected in Yorks and Humber, the West Mids and E of England. Further details in the spreadsheet here
  • The research clearly identifies an issue with neonics in our rivers. But nature charities are warning that these figures are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amounts of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides in our rivers and the number of rivers affected. Poor monitoring is very probably hiding the true scale of impact of neonics in our waterways.

Also covered in the Guardian

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