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Three-quarters of world’s honey contains pesticides, study finds

More than two-fifths contained two or more varieties of the pesticides and 10% held residues from four or five.

Three-quarters of the honey produced around the world contains nerve agent pesticides that can harm bees and pose a potential health hazard to humans, a study has shown.

Scientists who tested 198 honey samples from every continent except Antarctica discovered that 75% were laced with at least one of the neonicotinoid chemicals.

More than two-fifths contained two or more varieties of the pesticides and 10% held residues from four or five.

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ONE USE ONLY, CAN ONLY BE USED IN CONNECTION WITH STORY PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL SCIENCE EMBARGOED TO 1900 THURSDAY OCTOBER 5 Undated handout photo of foraging bees at a hive entry in the Botanical Garden Neuchatel, Switzerland. Three-quarters of the honey produced around the world contains nerve agent pesticides that can harm bees and pose a potential health hazard to humans, a study has shown. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday October 5, 2017. Scientists who tested 198 honey samples from every continent except Antarctica discovered that 75% were laced with at least one of the neonicotinoid chemicals. See PA story SCIENCE Honey. Photo credit should read: Blaise Mulhauser/otanical garden Neuchatel/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Environmental campaigners responded by demanding a “complete and permanent” ban preventing any further use of neonicotinoids on farm crops in Europe.

Experts called the findings “alarming”, “sobering” and a “serious environmental concern” while stressing that the pesticide residue levels found in honey generally fell well below the safe limits for human consumption.

However, one leading British scientist warned that it was impossible to predict what the long term effects of consuming honey containing tiny amounts of the chemicals might be.

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Neonicotinoids are toxic to honey bees and bumblebees (Simon Rowell Photography/PA)

Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, said: “Beyond doubt … anyone regularly eating honey is likely to be getting a small dose of mixed neurotoxins.

“In terms of acute toxicity, this certainly won’t kill them and is unlikely to do measurable harm. What we don’t know is whether there are long-term, chronic effects from life-time exposure to a cocktail of these and other pesticides in our honey and most other foods.”

For practical reasons it was “impossible to do a proper experiment to test this”, he added.

Neonicotinoids are neuro-active chemicals similar to nicotine that have proved to be highly effective at protecting crops from pests, especially aphids and root-eating grubs.

They can either be sprayed on leaves or coated on seeds, in which case they infiltrate every part of the growing plant.

Years of research have shown that under controlled conditions the chemicals are toxic to honey bees and bumblebees, causing brain damage that can affect learning and memory and impair their ability to forage for nectar and pollen.

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