Today the European Food Standards Authority has published its scientific reviews of the evidence linking the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides to bee harm and decline. The Authority reviewed nearly 1,000 papers and concludes that clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam all pose a high risk to wild bees and honeybees – in fact nearly 600 high risk pathways are confirmed.
Member States are now expected to vote on a proposal to extend and broaden the existing ban – which was only on flowering and spring sown crops. The ban must be broadened because the persistent insecticides have been confirmed to pose a risk to bees when dust from seed planting contaminates wild flowers and insects, and when wildflowers near crops take up some of the c.95% of the chemical that ends up in the soil.
One issue that the reports do not resolve is the use of neonicotinoids in greenhouses. The EFSA reports appear to conclude that dust from neonicotinoid use stays in greenhouses and does not pose a risk to bees, however it is well known that neonicotinoids do leach out of greenhouses through the soil and can be a major source of harmful freshwater pollution. NGOs want to see greenhouse use banned to avoid harm to freshwater life.
“While it is good news that the regulators have definitively concluded that neonicotinoids pose a high risk, it is a tragedy that our bees, moths, butterflies and flies have been hammered by these toxins for over 15 years, causing severe declines in wild pollinators and the pollination services they undertake. Not only should EU countries now ban their use entirely, they should also urgently approve and implement EFSA’s bee risk assessment process so that the blunder is not repeated.” Said Matt Shardlow, Buglife CEO.
EFSA’s Bee Guidance was finalised in 2014, but pesticide companies are refusing to apply it, and until member states stop approving pesticides that have not passed bee safety tests then bees are not safe from emerging pesticides, including new neonicotinoids such as sulfoxaflor.