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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Glyphosate once again in the dock

by Eric Serres

A recently-published American study provides...

Glyphosate once again in the dock

Translated Thursday 20 December 2018, by Jane Swingler

A recently-published American study provides a new weapon in the fight against bee colony deaths by demonstrating that the herbicide presents a deadly threat to bees.

Not so long ago, French officials were still refusing to back the legislation that will ban the use of glyphosate in three years’ time. However, a study published recently by a university in Texas has highlighted the premise that this herbicide could also be one of the causes of bee mortality. Although it has thus far avoided this issue, Monsanto, which markets Roundup (the herbicide’s commercial name) finds itself once again under the spotlight. This is the company which claims on its website that “there is no scientifically proven link between the decline in bee numbers and the use of glyphosate”!

The Texan researchers demonstrated that exposing bees to glyphosate at levels normally found in flower nectar (between 5 and 10 milligrams per litre) could be sufficient to alter their intestinal flora. The report explains that “because it is crucial to bees’ development, for their nutrition and defence against natural enemies, a change in this flora may make bees more susceptible to environmental agents, like an insufficient dietary intake or their resistance to disease.”

Herbicides, pesticides …. The systematic destruction of bee colonies continues and collateral damage grows. Just a few weeks ago we learnt that neonicotinoids, so-called “bee-killer” pesticides, which will be banned in the EU from 2019, had been found in almost all the world’s honey. These are difficult times for beekeepers, who see their honey and hives, along with their livelihoods, simply melt away. This summer, Jean-Pierre Duluc, who has been keeping bees in Les Landes since 1974, experienced this first-hand. 1.2 tons of his honey were refused for sale due to glyphosate contamination. According to official figures, the herbicide was present in levels twice as high as the permitted standard in honey.

So, whose fault was this? Private foresters were certainly spraying it to make their pine trees grow more quickly. However, in this torrent of bad news, a decision from the Austrian judiciary provides a glimmer of hope for the bees. An Austrian fruit producer who sprayed his orchards with the insecticide chlorpyrifos has been convicted of “wilful damage to the environment”. The decision for this twelve-month conviction, including a four month custodial sentence handed down by the court in Klagenfurt in southern Austria, was based on the fact that this producer, who regularly takes part in training other professionals, had acted knowingly when spraying his trees, even when they were in blossom and attracting bees. Explaining the custodial sentence, the court stated that it should serve as a “deterrent” and a reminder that “the use of phytosanitary products can only be carried out as part of a balanced framework between ecology and economy.” Will this judgement ever set a legal precedent? We will have to wait and see …

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