‘Bee-killing ‘ sprays could harm birds as well, including the wild grey partridge, according to the latest research. Neonicotinoids-systemic pesticides that are applied to crops such as oilseed rape as a seed treatment, which is absorbed into the plant as it grows-were partially banned in Europe last year.

A new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, has found that birds may also be under threat from ‘neonics’. ‘Use of [certain types of neonicotinoids] as seed treatments on some crops poses risks to small birds, and ingestion of even a few treated seeds could cause mortality or reproductive impairment to sensitive bird species.’

Dr David Gibbons, Chief Scientist at the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science and one of the authors of the report, believes: ‘Although the effects on birds and other vertebrates remain unclear, the analysis suggests they are at risk, both from the direct toxicity of these chemicals, and by depleting the numbers of other insects on which they depend for food.’

However, the NFU is calling for the two-year ban on neonicotinoids to be lifted this autumn because it believes reverting to older pesticides, such as pyrethroids, could be doing more harm than good and that more research into whether or not neonicotinoids kill bees should be carried bout in the field rather than the laboratory.

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