Here’s The Latest In A Russian Oligarch’s $100 Million Yacht Paint Lawsuit

Melnichenko boatReuters/Tim ChongRussian billionaire Andrei Melnichenko’s 394-foot mega-yacht “A.”

Andrei Melnichenko has extra reason to be concerned about the sunlight — and we aren’t talking financial transparency. The owner of Eurochem, a large Russian producer of fertilizers, says he has evidence that sunlight on his surfaces reveals rash, blotches, separations, lines, starring and sagging. He says he’s paid to see his face reflected on the surfaces, but because the job has been botched, he can’t. The damage he is estimating at $100 million.

That’s not Melnichenko’s person we are talking about, but the surfaces of his boat, a motor yacht named A, after his wife Alexandra, and owned by the two of them through a succession of offshore companies, starting with Niedes Ltd. of British Virgin Islands, A Yacht Charter Co. of Isle of Man, and currently Bermuda Yachts Ltd of Bermuda.

Since July of 2010 Melnichenko’s New York lawyer, Patrick Salisbury, has been suing the international paints and coatings corporation, the Dutch-registered Akzo Nobel through three of its paint subsidiaries for covering the yacht with paint which failed to reflect and failed to stick. Akzo Nobel’s shares are listed over the counter in the US, and it has a current market capitalization of almost $18 billion. One of the subsidiaries does business in New Jersey, where it calls itself “one of the most reliable marine coatings suppliers in the world.”

The case docket, No. L002634-10, in the Superior Court of New Jersey commenced with Melnichenko’s claim dated July 8, 2010. By late last month, it was running to 116 filings. Altogether, the file holds 260,000 pages, including 300 exhibits, 27 witness depositions, and dozens of contracts. So far it has cost both sides several million dollars. It is the biggest product liability claim ever made by a Russian against an international supplier.

A boat-painting expert has reportedly testified that there were no serious surface defects in the paint job causing the poor reflectivity which is the nub of the Melnichenkos’ complaint. Akzo Nobel argues that “as the only harm alleged is the subjective lack of reflectivity in the paint, Plaintiff essentially argues that paint damaged itself.”

Andrei MelnichenkoAP Photo/Sergey PonomarevAndrei Melnichenko is pictured on the left.

More detail on the Awlgrip-brand paint, and on what Mr and Mrs Melnichenko have claimed about themselves in the court papers, were sealed this past July by the presiding judge, Kenneth Grispin, on the ground that they may contain trade and commercial secrets for the paint company, and privacy issues for the Melnichenkos.

That sum, the complaint alleges, has been calculated from “ascertainable losses of at least $100 million plus attorney’s fees and costs… These ascertainable costs include those required to correct the paint and coatings defects and repaint the entire Vessel, which will take at least 18 months. Further, these costs include the loss of use of the yacht and cost of a replacement yacht during the repair period.”

The shipbuilder, Blohm & Voss, is being sued separately and elsewhere for €13 million.

According to International Paint LLC, the New Jersey company which is immediate target of the court action, the Melnichenko claim is misdirected. If the paint job turned out to be as non-reflective as the Melnichenkos are claiming, the alleged damages “if any, were not the result of any act or omission on the part of International Paint LLC, but exist by reason of operation of nature over which International Paint LLC had no control.” In short, Mother Nature is to blame. Or to be specific, Aeolus, God of the sea winds, Briareus, God of the sea storms, Oeolyca, in charge of sea waves, the Harpies (gusts and water spouts), not to mention Poseidon, God of all the sea.

According to a source close to the case, “independent inspection concluded there was nothing wrong with the paint job. They [Mr & Mrs Melnichenko] were happy with the job. They signed off their acceptance. A normal paint (ship) job would last four to five years. But that depends on the weather and sea.”

The court record reveals an uncharacteristic reluctance on the part of Melnichenko’s wife Alexandra to put her mouth where her husband’s er, lawsuit is. In September of this year, according to one of the filings by lawyers for the Akzo Nobel group, the court was told that Mrs Melnichenko had been notified that she should appear for a deposition in the spring of 2012. It then took the paint group almost a year to compel her to appear.

Akzo Nobel is also accusing the Melnichenkos’ lawyers of withholding another dozen witnesses whose testimony, the company says, is required for the court to adjudicate the claims, including Philippe Starck, the designer of the exterior shape and interior decoration of the boat.

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Russia Is Looking Bad

A quick note on Russia.

We’ve been saying that it’s time to pay more attention again to the country’s economic troubles. The Ruble has been getting smoked lately, and the country is suffering from many of the same forces that are dragging down other emerging markets.

To that end, the latest PMI report from Russia is very poor looking.

From the report:

The survey’s headline figure is the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index™ (PMI) – a composite indicator designed to give a single-figure snapshot of operating conditions in the manufacturing economy. The PMI registered below the 50.0 no-change threshold for the sixth time in seven months in January, indicating an ongoing downturn in business conditions in the Russian goods-producing sector. Moreover, the PMI declined from 48.8 to 48.0, the lowest reading since June 2009. New orders continued to decline marginally in January, amid reports of weak underlying demand. The rate of contraction accelerated slightly to the fastest since July 2011, and international demand continued to weigh on total inflows of new work as new export business fell for the fifth month running. The current sequence of declining new export orders is the joint-longest in over four years.

This chart drives home the deterioration:Screen Shot 2014 02 03 at 5.03.33 AM

Here’s more on what’s going wrong in the Russian economy from HSBC economist Alexander Morozov:

“Manufacturers started the year on a minor note, the January HSBC Russia Manufacturing PMI survey found. Indeed, all key economic activity indicators point to a broad-based contraction. Notably, manufacturing output decreased for the first time since July last year. In conjunction with the reported decline in new orders, ongoing cuts in staffing, faster suppliers’ delivery times and a stronger rise in output prices, the overall picture in manufacturing looks pretty gloomy.

“Importantly, consumer goods producers reported falling output levels for the first time in many months. Apparently, a sharp moderation of demand growth caught them by surprise, forcing them to increase their inventories for now. Intermediate goods producers got some support from growth in export demand that allowed them to increase output amid declining domestic demand.

“Generalising the January PMI results, we see the Russian economy losing its key driver– private consumption growth. Investment demand has not recovered yet to become a new growth driver, while export demand for intermediate goods is not strong enough to offset weakness in the two other sectors.

“It follows that surprisingly benign official industrial growth data for December, indeed for 2013 as a whole, will unlikely be sustained in the beginning of 2014. Manufacturers face a serious risk of recession in the coming months, we think. Partial import substitution on the back of a weaker currency and improvement in export demand could mitigate this risk.”

This chart shows a 10-year look at the dollar vs. the ruble, which really drives home the weakness of late in the Russian currency.

 

Screen Shot 2014 02 03 at 5.12.28 AM

The Shout-Outs and Easter Eggs You Missed in the Sherlock Finale

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The third season of Sherlock came to its close on American television last night with the finale episode “His Last Vow,” where Sherlock finally faced the mysterious blackmailer Charles Augustus Magnussen. Played by Lars Mikkelsen, the character is based on the titular villain of Doyle’s story “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” who was in turn based on the real-life blackmailer Charles Augustus Howell. And that’s just the first of many hidden references and shout-outs. Read on to learn more!

WHAT WE SEE: This episode is entitled “His Last Vow.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The title references Sherlock’s vow, made at the end of the previous episode, that he would do anything to protect John, Mary and their unborn child. It also calls back to Doyle’s “His Last Bow,” the final Holmes story chronologically.

WHAT WE SEE: Charles Augustus Magnussen answers questions before a parliamentary committee.

WHAT IT MEANS: In the episode “The Empty Hearse,” a news report had mentioned a parliamentary committee was summoning Magnussen for an inquiry.

WHAT WE SEE: Magnussen approaches Lady Elizabeth Smallwood and discusses the incriminating evidence he has against her husband. She then decides to contact Sherlock Holmes.

WHAT IT MEANS: In Doyle’s “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” Lady Eva Brackwell enlists Sherlock Holmes after Milverton threatens to reveal incriminating evidence about her past to her fiancé.

WHAT WE SEE: John searches for Kate Whitney’s son Isaac in a crack house. He also finds Sherlock, who says he is undercover.

WHAT IT MEANS: In Doyle’s story “The Man With the Twisted Lip,” Watson visited an opium den in search of Kate Whitney’s husband Isa and similarly found Holmes, who was working undercover.

WHAT WE SEE: In the lab at St. Bart’s, Molly slaps Sherlock after his return from the crack house and says, “How dare you throw away the beautiful gifts you were born with?”

WHAT IT MEANS: This mirrors the opening scene from Doyle’s story “The Sign of Four.” Watson confronted Sherlock Holmes about his use of cocaine (which was legal at the time) by asking, “Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed?”

WHAT WE SEE: In the St. Bart’s lab, Sherlock is impressed by the observational skills of Bill Wiggins, whom he met at the crack house, and recruits him as an agent.

WHAT IT MEANS: A boy named Wiggins was introduced in the very first Holmes story “A Study in Scarlet.” He was leader of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of homeless children who occasionally acted as Holmes’ eyes and ears.

mycroft

WHAT WE SEE: In Sherlock’s apartment, he easily gets the better of his brother Mycroft and forces him against the wall.

WHAT IT MEANS: In Doyle’s stories, Mycroft has the superior intellect but Sherlock has superior combat training in fencing, boxing, Japanese martial arts, singlestick fighting and firearms.

WHAT WE SEE: Sherlock compares Magnussen to a shark, asking if John has ever studied a shark in an aquarium. He mentions that while he has dealt with murderers, psychopaths, terrorists and serial killers, none turn his stomach like this blackmailer.

WHAT IT MEANS: In Doyle’s original story, Holmes compared Milverton to a snake and asked if Watson ever studied serpents in a zoo. He added, “I’ve had to do with 50 murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow.”

WHAT WE SEE: Sherlock tells John that Magnussen has a personal fortress called Appledore, which houses vaults of information he uses to blackmail others.

WHAT IT MEANS: In “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” the villain lives in the Appledore Towers estate in Hampstead.

WHAT WE SEE: Magnussen looks at Sherlock and reviews his pressure points. The list reads: Irene Adler, Jim Moriarty, Redbeard, Hounds of the Baskerville, opium, John Watson.

WHAT IT MEANS: Most of the references are obvious — except Redbeard, who was first mentioned in the previous episode “The Sign of Three” and revealed here as Sherlock’s childhood dog.

ScreenShot051

WHAT WE SEE: To John’s shock, Sherlock reveals that he has dated and proposed marriage to Janine to learn Magnussen’s schedule and gain entry to his office.

WHAT IT MEANS: In the original Doyle story, Holmes adopted the identity of Escott, a plumber, to court Milverton’s housemaid. After getting engaged to her, Holmes revealed to Watson that he had done this to gain entry to Milverton’s home. Watson was appalled, but Holmes assured his friend that there was a romantic rival ready to pursue the housemaid if “Escott” disappeared.

WHAT WE SEE: After breaking into his offices, Sherlock sees that Magnussen is about to be shot by Mary. Sherlock reveals himself, stopping the assassination attempt.

WHAT IT MEANS: In “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” Holmes and Watson broke into Milverton’s home and witnessed a woman confronting and shooting the blackmailer. This turned out differently, however: When she continued her attack, Watson tried to stop her but Holmes held him back and they silently agreed that the murder was justice.

WHAT WE SEE: In Sherlock’s memory palace, a mental avatar of Mycroft appears and the detective suddenly feels like he’s a child again.

WHAT IT MEANS: The younger Sherlock is played by Louis Moffat, son of the show’s co-creator Steven Moffat and series producer Sue Vertue. (This episode is very much a family affair; Moffat’s mother-in-law Beryl Vertue also serves as executive producer.) Louis Moffat also voiced one of Moriarty’s hostages in the season 1 episode “The Great Game.”

WHAT WE SEE: In the hospital, Janine tells Sherlock that she’s decided to retire in a cottage in Sussex. There are beehives left behind by a previous owner, but she plans to remove them.

WHAT IT MEANS: In Doyle’s original stories, Sherlock retired from crime fighting at a relatively young age. He then moved to a cottage in the Common Downs in Sussex. While there, he kept beehives and published his studies about the insects.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 11.52.53 AM

WHAT WE SEE: Sherlock lures Mary to a place he refers to as the “empty house,” where he confronts her about her identity as an assassin. Mary thinks he’s sitting in a chair, then when Sherlock appears she’s convinced it’s just a wax dummy decoy, only to later realize it’s really John.

WHAT IT MEANS: The show conflates the character of Mary Morstan, John’s wife, with Moriarty’s assassin Col. Sebastian Moran. In Doyle’s story “The Empty House,” Holmes lured out Moran with a wax dummy decoy at the window of his Baker Street apartment, providing a misleading silhouette. Before Moran arrived, Holmes hid in an unoccupied house across the street.

WHAT WE SEE: Mary passes John a flash drive with the letters A.G.R.A. She explains that these are her real initials.

WHAT IT MEANS: In “The Sign of Four,” which introduced Mary Morstan, the plot involved hidden treasure found in Fort Agra in India.

WHAT WE SEE: Sherlock invites the Watsons to Christmas at his parents’ house.

WHAT IT MEANS: Sherlock’s parents are played by Benedict Cumberbatch’s actual parents, actors Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton.

WHAT WE SEE: At his parents’ house, Sherlock sees in the newspaper that Lady Smallwood’s husband has committed suicide.

WHAT IT MEANS: In “The Adventure of Charles August Milverton,” the woman who killed the blackmailer said that her husband had died because of him.

hudson

WHAT WE SEE: Magnussen reveals that he keep no files for the most part, but rather memorizes and stores vast amounts of information and secrets that he can mentally summon at a moment’s notice.

WHAT IT MEANS: Magnussen’s abilities echo how Doyle described Mycroft Holmes: as a living database for the British government and that he was the central exchange and organizer of all its departments. In “The Bruce-Partington Plans,” Holmes says Mycroft’s brain has “the greatest capacity for storing facts” and “his specialism is omniscience.”

WHAT WE SEE: In a government office, Mycroft mentions that his colleague thinks Britain sometimes needs a “blunt instrument.” In comparison, he says that Sherlock Holmes is “a scalpel wielded with precision.”

WHAT IT MEANS: In a 1954 interview about his character James Bond, Ian Fleming said “I wanted to show a hero without any characteristics, who was simply the blunt instrument in the hands of the government.” Fleming repeated the “blunt instrument” description in many interviews and the character M also uses it to describe Bond in the 2006 film Casino Royale. Mycroft’s “colleague” may be a reference to M.

WHAT WE SEE: After dismissing the possibility that he is experiencing brotherly compassion, Mycroft remarks, “You know what happened to the other one.”

WHAT IT MEANS: In Doyle’s stories, Holmes never said if he had siblings aside from Mycroft. But the detective mentioned coming from a line of country squires and in such families, the eldest brother was often obligated to stay home. It was common for second sons of the gentry to assume a civil service position to achieve influence, however. For this reason, many fans have concluded that Mycroft was only able to pursue work with the government because there was an older brother who stayed in the country. Doyle originally considered naming his detective “Sherrinford Hope” before settling on “Sherlock Holmes,” so some fans have adopted “Sherrinford” as the name of this hypothetical elder brother.

brothers

WHAT WE SEE: Mycroft concedes that his brother must be punished in some way, admitting that Sherlock “is a murderer.”

WHAT IT MEANS: In Doyle’s stories, Sherlock didn’t kill anyone except for Professor James Moriarty, which was arguably self-defense. He was, however, indirectly responsible for and allowed the deaths of some criminals. Believing these deaths were justified, he never expressed regret.

WHAT WE SEE: Sherlock accepts an undercover mission for MI-6, knowing that Mycroft predicts he will die in roughly six months.

WHAT IT MEANS: Doyle’s story “His Last Bow” involved Holmes coming out of retirement in order to perform a long-term undercover operation for the British government targeting a German spymaster named Von Bork.

WHAT WE SEE: As he and Watson say goodbye for seemingly the last time, Sherlock says there’s “the east wind takes us all in the end.” He says that Mycroft told him stories of the east wind seeking out the unworthy.

WHAT IT MEANS: In Greek mythology and some religious texts, the east wind is associated with misfortune. Doyle’s story “His Last Bow” took place in 1914, just before World War I. In the final scene, after deciding he is permanently returning to retirement, a 60-year-old Sherlock Holmes looks over London and considers the oncoming war. He tells Watson, “There’s an east wind coming,” and that it will take many lives, but adds that it is still God’s wind, and a cleaner, strong land will emerge after the storm.

Alan Kistler is the author of Doctor Who: A History.

New York Is About To Get Slammed Again With Up To 10 Inches Of Snow

Weather Channel Map

New York City seems to be the epicenter of this most recent snowstorm, which spans from Maine all the way to D.C.

Forecasters predict six to 10 inches in New York City, according to The Weather Channel.

Snow is supposed to continue falling in varying intensities throughout the day, heaviest in the morning and tapering in the late afternoon, with low visibility.

Commutes are expected to be a bit longer, and flights may grind to a halt, Bloomberg reports.

A Winter Storm Warning continues in the city until 7 p.m., when it turns into a Winter Storm Watch for the rest of Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service also predicts that snow will turn into a wintry mix of sleet and rain late Tuesday Evening.

Bitcoin ‘Ponzi’ Concern Sparks Warning From Estonia Bank

The central bank of Estonia, where Swedish banks dominate the lending market, urged consumers to steer clear of Bitcoin and similar virtual currencies, warning such software could prove to be little more than a “Ponzi scheme.”

Bitcoin “is a problematic scheme,” Mihkel Nommela, head of the Estonian central bank’s payment and settlement systems department, said in an e-mailed reply to questions. “All risks are assumed by the user, who has no one to turn to for help.”

Regulators and banks are escalating warnings against Bitcoin, and other digital currencies, amid concern such software lends itself to financial crime. Bitcoin enthusiasts suffered a blow this week when it emerged Charlie Shrem, vice chairman of Bitcoin Foundation, was charged in the U.S. for attempting to sell Bitcoins to narcotics traffickers.

SEB AB, the largest Nordic currency trader and the second-biggest bank in the Baltic region, is rejecting requests from clients seeking to set up accounts to manage Bitcoin. No Nordic regulator recognizes the software as money and Nordea Bank AB (NDA), Scandinavia’s biggest bank, is telling clients to think twice before touching Bitcoin.

“All in all, virtual currency schemes are an innovation that deserves some caution, given the lack of any guarantees and responsible parties to back them in the longer term or evidence that this isn’t just a Ponzi scheme,” said Nommela.

A computer screen displays the Bitcoin currency logo on an internet website in London.

Deepest Recession

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which joined the euro this year, got burned in 2008 as a real estate boom turned to bust and a global credit freeze hobbled exports. The three nations suffered the deepest recessions in Europe at the time, with Latvia’s economy contracting by more than a fifth in 2008-2009.

The experience has underscored resolve among regulators in the region to protect financial markets from products that display outsized value shifts. The Estonian finance ministry, responsible for regulation, and the central bank in Lithuania haven’t yet taken any steps to regulate virtual currencies.

The central bank of Lithuania today issued a statement urging consumers “to be extremely cautious” with virtual currencies.

‘Big Risk’

“Such currencies are created and managed by people or groups that nobody supervises,” Vilius Sapoka, director of the Financial Services and Markets Supervision Department at the bank, said in the statement. “So there’s a very big risk that the ‘creators’ could disappear with people’s money.”

Bitcoin’s price has fluctuated according to the newsflow around its safety and popularity. It topped $1,000 for the first time in November, as speculators anticipated broader use of digital money. The price has since dropped more than 20 percent, according to Bitstamp, one of the more active online exchanges where Bitcoins are traded for dollars and other currencies. One Bitcoin cost about $15 a year ago.

Bitcoin supporters say they are building a system to move money across the Internet securely and at a lower cost than existing wire transfers, bank debits or remittances.

Bitcoin was introduced in 2008 by a programmer or group of programmers under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. It has no central issuing authority, and uses a public ledger to verify encrypted transactions. It has gained traction with merchants selling everything from Sacramento Kings basketball tickets to kitchen mixers on Overstock.com.

Euros, Dollars

The software’s defenders say Bitcoin is safer than currencies backed by governments, arguing that virtual payment systems can’t be steered by political motives.

“Legacy currencies like euros or dollars are dependent on promises of central banks and politicians,” Martti Malmi, a software developer with Finnish firm SC5, who says he’s the first Bitcoin developer after Nakamoto and worked with the program in 2009-2011, said by e-mail. “I would advise caution in holding them more than you can afford to lose.”

In Sweden, consumers have experienced firsthand some of the risks associated with using Bitcoin. This month Sweden’s biggest Bitcoin exchange, Kapiton, was reported to the police and the National Board for Consumer Disputes after a number of users alleged their money had disappeared.

Kapiton’s founder — referred to on the website only as Sebastian — published a statement on Jan. 18 apologizing for “recent problems” and assuring users that no client assets had disappeared. The site is working to match orders with accounts, Sebastian said.

Bitcoin Foundation

Shrem resigned from the board of Bitcoin Foundation on Jan. 28 after he was charged with conspiring to launder $1 million in the virtual currency, the latest allegations tied to the illicit online bazaar Silk Road.

According to Nommela, Estonia’s central bank is also concerned that a Bitcoin account holder “can quickly lose it if for example his or her computer lacks the necessary anti-virus software or recovery options.”

As the birthplace of Skype, Estonia has traditionally been open to technological innovations. Citizens are at home with online services, with 95 percent of the country’s 2013 tax declarations filed electronically. Some 85 percent use online banking, compared with the European Union average of 48 percent, according to a Eurobarometer study in 2012.

“There are grounds to assume that the use of virtual money schemes will expand in Estonia as well,” Nommela said. “Thus the central bank keeps its attention on such schemes.”

Researchers make magnetic monopoles

Researchers make magnetic monopoles Magnetic monopoles, a theoretical phenomenon not observed directly before, have been synthesized by a research team from Aalto University (Espoo, Finland) and Amherst College (Amherst, Mass.).

The team has created and photographed synthesized monopoles in a supercooled medium according to a research paper published in Nature 

Professor David Hall led the experimental part of the research and the magnetic monopoles were created in the physics laboratories at Amherst College. Mikko Moettoenen led the theoretical and computational part of the research.

A hunt has been on for magnetic monopoles, which feature either a north or south pole only since Paul Dirac published a comprehensive theory that implied their existence in 1931. Implied artifacts of magnetic monopoles of been observed in spin-ices previously but this research is the first time that Dirac monopoles have been observed directly within a medium – ultracold helium-3, which is a Bose-Einstein condensate. The authors have taken images of monopoles at the termini of vortices within the condensate.

The images are described as “conclusive and long-awaited experimental evidence of the existence of Dirac monopoles.”

“The creation of a synthetic magnetic monopole should provide us with unprecedented insight into aspects of the natural monopole,” said Professor Hall, in a statement from Aalto University.

<

p style=”text-align:justify;”>The observation of the synthetic magnetic monopole was published in Observation of Dirac Monopoles in a Synthetic Magnetic Field
M. W. Ray, E. Ruokokoski, S. Kandel, M. Möttönen, and D. S. Hall

Related links and articles:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7485/full/nature12954.html

http://www.aalto.fi

Finnish study finds neonicotinoids do not harm bees

Initial findings from a Finnish study on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on field crops suggest they may not cause acute harm to bees.

The Neomehi Project in Finland is studying how neonicotinoid-based insecticides used in the cultivation of spring oilseed rape and spring turnip rape plants affects honeybees.

Based on the first set of test results, researchers said they suggested neonicotinoids do not cause immediate harm to honeybees.

For the study, beehives were positioned in five different locations, each in close proximity to an oilseed field.

The researchers also examined how neonicotinoid-based insecticides affect the apiary’s success. And they analysed neonicotinoid residues in oilseed plants, nectar, pollen, honey and honeybees.

Initially, no connection was found between seed treatment and colony collapse disorder, while the measured amount of chemical residues was fairly small and beneath the risk limit.

The research project will continue with new field tests next summer. At present, hibernation within the hives is being monitored. The project will conclude with a final report in early 2015.

MTT Agrifood Research Finland and the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira jointly launched the two-year project in spring 2013.

The project is also charting possible links between the proximity of the hives to rapeseed fields and death of beehives, and occurrence of bee diseases. These will incorporate the findings of a concurring bee health monitoring programme, which is coordinated by the EU and supervised in Finland by Evira.

The background of the research project is the EU-wide ban on three neonicotinoids issued by the European Commission last April. In two years, the commission will review the ban in the light of possible new research data.

Neonicotinoids are used to treat the seeds of oilseed plants in order to protect these oilseed crops against pests during the sprouting phase. Furthermore, they are sprayed on to the plants before flowering to combat Meligethes aeneus, a common species of pollen beetle.

Neonicotinoids were introduced in Finland in the early 2000s. Given the current lack of alternative seed treatment substances, farmers believe the ban on neonicotinoids may compromise the safety of oilseed crop cultivation and significantly reduce their willingness to cultivate it.

Scientists have called for more field-scale research looking into the effects of neonicotinoids on bee health , such as this Finnish study, following the publication of a number of “unrealistic” lab studies that exposed bees to elevated levels of these chemicals and then linked them to poor bee health.

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