Death Knell for neonicotinoid pesticides?

 “A high acute risk to honey bees was identified from exposure…” EFSA report

Following years of population decline and concern, the plight of bees seems to be, finally, being taken seriously by European authorities. A two year ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on crops attractive to honeybees was proposed by the EU Commission in January.

© Oliver Moore

A report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identified a high risk to bees from three specific neonicitonoid insecticides:

The European Commission had made an amended request for these three specific pesticides to be studied in detail by the EFSA.

Major shortcomings in the available literature and regulatory processes were highlighted by the EFSA, as well as specific “critical risks”. “A high acute risk to honey bees was identified from exposure via dust drift for the authorised uses in cereals, cotton, oilseed rape (except for uses with the lowest application rate authorised in the EU), maize, and sunflowers (except for uses with the lowest application rate authorised in the EU). A high acute risk was also identified for exposure via guttation fluid for the authorised uses in maize” the EFSA conclusion on Thiamethoxam states on page 45. Similar concerns were listed for both Imidacloprid and Clothianidin.

Bees are essential pollinators for European crops. However their population has drastically declined in recent years.

This two year ban, if approved, will come into effect from July 1st.  It will only be for crops attractive to honeybees, such as oilseed rape, sunflowers and maize. Crops such as sugar beet, potatoes and winter cereals are not conisdered attractive to honeybees, so the ban will not effect the use of neonicotonoids on these crops.

The ban as proposed is in keeping with the precautionary principle, as enshrined in the EU Treaty and in Regulation 1107/2009.

This regulation deals with what are termed “plant protection products” (i.e. pesticides, herbicides and insecticides), where considerable environmental or health risks might appear. According to the Regulation, any approved plant protection substances should “have no unacceptable acute or chronic effects on colony survival and development”.

Environmental and organic farming organisations such as the Soil Association “welcomed” the EFSA report, though expressed concern that the UK was one of only 4 EU Member States likely to vote to retain use of the three neonicitonoids.

Companies who supply neonicotinoid pesticides have been campaigning against a ban.

Mike Bushell, Principal Scientific Advisor at Syngenta said last month that the EFSA study “focused on highly theoretical risks to bees.” A Bayer news release called the move “disappointing” and “draconian”. A Bayer and Syngenta funded report also points to economic costs and land use changes in ending neonicotinoid use. It estimates that over 5 years the cost to the industry could amount to €17 billion and put 50,000 jobs at risk, according to Cap2020.

Individual home and garden suppliers in the UK have already started to withdraw neonicitonoids.

If passed these insecticides will be selectively banned for two years. France, Germany and Slovenia have already banned some neonicitonoids.

A final vote is expected on 14 – 15 March by a committee of experts representing all EU nations.

Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 196 Articles
Dr. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     A propos d'Oliver Moore Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activité professionnelle. Il peut néanmoins admirer par la fenêtre de son bureau les mésanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchés au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cœur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisés, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant à la communauté. Les jours où il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant également des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne également des cours sur le Master en coopératives, agroalimentaire et développement durable à l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majorité de son temps de travail à l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date à laquelle l’Irlande a assuré la présidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est là qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce à sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommé rédacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des médias sociaux, aide à définir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois même rédige un article pour le site web.  À l’époque où on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, où il a aidé des ONG irlandaises de commerce équitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – à raconter leur histoire. Il se peut que ces jours-là reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de préférer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilités de bénévolat dans la communauté dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.

1 Comment

  1. Nothing more to say but ban, ban, ban. We can’t continue for the cause of ccd until this stuff is gone.

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