EU plans to ban neonicotinoids over risk to bee population
A recent report from the European Food Safety Authority has indicated that it’s likely that neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned across all EU states in the near future. The report, which was based on an analysis of over 1500 scientific studies, looked at the safety of three neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. It found that “most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides represent a risk to wild bees and honeybees” and has recommended that they no longer be used in the EU. The union plans to vote on the issue later this year.
Previous research into the use of neonicotinoids has shown that they can cause a range of harm to bees, including reducing queen bee numbers and damaging their memory. One study which looked at honey samples has shown that there’s contamination of the pesticide in bees across the world. Another study carried out in Germany found that an estimated 75% of flying insects had disappeared in the country, and experts have warned that if it continues it could cause “ecological armageddon”.
Although farmers have argued that pesticides are vital for crop pollination, a recent UN report has denounced the common claims that pesticides are necessary for us to produce enough food. “This long-awaited report confirms the significant threat these neonicotinoid pesticides pose to our bees. We have been playing Russian roulette with the future of our bees for far too long,” said Friends of the Earth bee campaigner Sandra Bell.
An initial assessment by Efsa highlighted the risk that these commonly used pesticides pose to the bee population across the EU, which led to the banning of its use on flowering crops as they were seen to attract the most bees. However, it’s believed that this isn’t enough and “for all the outdoor uses, there was at least one aspect of the assessment indicating a high risk.”
Bees, along with other insects are vital for food production as they pollinate around three quarters of all crops, so the decline in numbers is very concerning. Prof Christopher Connolly, at the University of Dundee, UK said: “This is an important announcement that most uses of neonicotinoids are a risk to all bee species. The greatest risk to bees is from chronic exposure due to its persistence.”
Jose Tarazona, head of Efsa’s pesticides unit, added: “The availability of such a substantial amount of data has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions. There is variability in the conclusions [and] some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.”