Coillte faces pressure over hazardous pesticide

Environmentalists are ramping up pressure on Coillte to end the use of a hazardous pesticide in State forests.

Coillte faces pressure over hazardous pesticide

Members of the Woodland League and the Environmental Pillar, a body which represents 28 environmental groups, have begun outlining their arguments for the phasing out of cypermethrin to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the group which grants an eco-label cert to forestry managers.

FSC policy officer Maria Pilar Melero Bravo has been meeting various groups in recent days to discuss their submissions made as part of Coillte’s public consultation on its application for another five-year derogation to use the insect-killing pesticide cypermethrin.

Environmental Pillar spokesman Andrew St Ledger said the FSC eco-label should not be awarded to Coillte as long as it is using the hazardous chemical.

Since it was first used by Coillte in 2007, some 105,000 litres of the pesticide have been sprayed on an area roughly 70 times the size of Phoenix Park, he said, adding that it is impacting on biodiversity through a reduction of various insect species.

“It is high time to move away from this outdated unsustainable forestry model to a more natural forest model based on our native trees which are not dependent on hazardous chemicals,” said Mr St Ledger.

Cypermethrin is used to dip young plants and is sprayed on land to prevent or control pine weevil attack on non-native spruce and pine trees.

In its submission, the Environmental Pillar called for a complete and immediate ban on the spraying of the chemical on forest sites, and the phasing out of its use for dipping plants in nurseries over the next five years.

“This chemical poses a real threat to wildlife, especially bees, who are already under severe pressure,” Mr St Ledger said. “Bees and other pollinators are vitally important for food production and a healthy environment. The Irish forest industry’s dependency on this hazardous chemical exposes the myth that this industrial tree farming model is sustainable.”

Coillte said cypermethrin is only applied in the controlled environment of nurseries, and sprayed in forests during good weather only. It is not sprayed in aquatic buffer zone — an area of 10m to 25m from a stream edge.

It said it has and will continue to review and evaluate non-pesticide alternatives as they become available, and is involved in research with the National University of Ireland Maynooth on the use of nematodes and fungi as control agents for weevil.

Coillte also said that soil and water tests have shown no trace of the chemical as it degrades immediately upon contact with soil.

Garden centre bans product to save bees

A garden centre has launched a crusade to save bees. The Pavilion Garden Centre in Cork has stopped selling pesticide products containing neonicotinoids — a substance linked to ‘colony collapse disorder’ which has seen the global honey bee population plummet over the last decade.

The garden centre’s horticultural consultant and Irish Examiner gardening correspondent, Peter Dowdall, has now urged all garden centres to follow suit, and to promote environmentally-sound, bee-friendly gardening products.

“Waiting for the products to be banned is not an option because time is not on our side,” Mr Dowdall said.

“We feel responsible to inform customers about the dangers of using these products given the connection to dwindling bee numbers. There are environmentally sound products that gardeners can safely use that will help ensure healthy bees, which are so vital to our very survival.”

Bees play a vital role in the global economy, pollinating about 70% of the crops used to feed more than 90% of the world’s population.

Scientists have warned that if bees become extinct, it could trigger an immediate global food shortage.

Albert Einstein once suggested that the human race could die out within four years of bees going extinct.

Three neonicotinoids — clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam — have been banned in Europe since 2013.

— Eoin English

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