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France to Study Ban on Syngenta Pesticide on Bee Research

France’s Agriculture Ministry asked the country’s food-security and environment agency to study revoking approval of Syngenta AG’s Cruiser insecticide, after new research on the pesticide’s toxicity to honeybees.

The ministry previously said it would start a procedure to withdraw approval for Cruiser, whose active ingredient is the chemical thiamethoxam, in case new science raised questions about the insecticide, according to a statement on the government’s website late yesterday.

Honeybees fed a dose of thiamethoxam were about twice as likely as untreated bees to die away from the hive, suggesting the chemical interfered with the insects’ ability to find their way home, according to a study led by Mickael Henry of France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, or INRA, published in the journal Science yesterday.

“If the new scientific data are confirmed, the authorization to market Cruiser would be withdrawn,” the ministry wrote.

Cruiser has been used on millions of hectares of corn and rapeseed in Europe in the past four years without reported incidents of bee mortality, according to Mark Titterington, a spokesman for Syngenta.

“If used correctly, no bee mortality is reported,” Titterington said by phone. “We have a 10-year registration and unless that changes we have no concern.”

France is the European Union’s largest agricultural producer, and the 27-nation bloc’s largest grower of wheat, rapeseed, corn and sugar beets. Cruiser can be used to coat the seeds of crops ranging from barley to zucchini, according to the Syngenta website.

Field Research

The ministry said it asked INRA and the Association of Agricultural Technical Coordination to speed up field research to assess whether the results of the study can be replicated in real-life conditions.

The INRA study “appears to have exposed bees to a concentration level 30 times greater than the average concentration of thiamethoxam measured in nectar in the field, of rapeseed treated with thiamethoxam,” Titterington said.

The French researchers said they fed honeybees a non-lethal dose of the insecticide similar to levels found in the field.

France also said it will ask the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority to look into the study and if appropriate adjust the framework for evaluating pesticides’ effect on bees.

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