Honey across the world contaminated by pesticides, new study reveals

Published by James Orr on

October 11th, 2017

A new study has confirmed that honey across the world has been contaminated by pesticides linked to the recent crash in global bee populations.

The report, published in Science last week, shows that honey from every continent except Antarctica contained traces of neonicotinoids.

Incredibly, honey collected on islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and off the coasts of East and West Africa also tested positive for the pesticide group.

The researchers behind the report said that the results contribute to the growing evidence against neonicotinoids by showing, for the first time, the presence of these pesticides in honey on a global scale.

The team from the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland collected 198 samples of honey from every continent and tested them for neonicotinoids, with 75 per cent of the samples containing at least one chemical in the pesticide group.

Honey from North America, Asia and Europe had the highest rates of contamination, with traces of neonicotinoids found in 86 per cent, 80 per cent and 79 per cent of samples respectively.

Neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids are synthetic chemicals widely used as pesticides in agriculture. Seeds are coated with the chemical, which is then taken up into plant tissue. This results in fewer requirements to spray the pesticide later in the plant’s lifecycle, making it a cost-effective pesticide.

However, an increasing number of studies have shown that neonicotinoids can be harmful to bees. Less than two months ago, a report was published showing that one particular neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam, reduces bumblebee colony initiation by 26 per cent.

In June this year, the largest ever study carried out on neonicotinoids – funded in part by the pesticide’s manufacturers Bayer and Syngenta – found that the chemicals pose a major threat to honeybees and wild bees.

The study shows that 48 per cent of the contaminated samples had neonicotinoid levels that exceeded the minimum dose known to cause harm to bees.

Bee populations have been declining in Europe since the 1980s. Today, 30 per cent of Irish bee species are threatened with extinction.

Bees pollinate over 80 per cent of flowering plants, including many of the crops we rely on for food.

As a result, bees are estimated to contribute over $200 billion to the world economy every year and bring in an estimated €53m per year to the Irish economy.

In 2013, the use of neonicotinoids on crops that attract bees was temporarily banned, with the European Food Safety Authority set to make a binding ruling in November.

[x_author title=”About the Author”]

Related Post
MEPs call for full ban of Glyphosate by the end of 2020
The Parliament's debating chamber Photo: Diliff

October 19th, 2017 In a landmark move this morning, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee has backed a full ban on Read more

Why is Ireland diluting legislation on banning hormone-changing chemicals?

March 06th 2017 Ireland has been accused of trying to limit EU legislation aimed at reducing the use of harmful Read more

Majority believe climate change should be a high Government priority

10 December 2021  The vast majority of Irish people believe climate change should be a high priority for the Government, Read more

We’re looking for student contributors!

26 November 2021 Earlier this week, we announced that we’re going down a different road come the New Year.  Coverage Read more


James Orr

James is The Green New's Biodiversity Reporter and a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Dublin. James has a BA in Zoology from TCD.