Greenpeace International

EU study on bee-killing pesticides increases pressure for ban expansion

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Source: Greenpeace International

Food safety agency highlights dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides

A study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has linked the spraying of three neonicotinoid pesticides to harmful effects on bees, increasing the pressure on the European Commission to expand a current EU-wide ban to all uses and crops, said Greenpeace.

EFSA assessed the safety of pesticides thiamethoxam (produced by Syngenta), clothianidin and imidacloprid (both produced by Bayer) when sprayed on crops. In their conclusions “high risks were either identified or could not be excluded”  [1]. In the new review, EFSA also pointed to serious knowledge gaps on the impacts of these pesticides on other pollinators stressing that “the risk assessment could not be finalised due to data gaps”. Bees and other pollinators play a crucial role in food production. Around a third of the world’s food crops directly depend on natural pollination from bees and other animals [2].

The current EU ban on the three neonicotinoids does not cover all uses of the pesticides on all crops. For example, spraying in fruit orchards is allowed after blooming, as is the use in greenhouses. Moreover, European countries have granted derogations to the ban – most recently for use on oilseed rape in the UK [3]. 

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: “EFSA has confirmed what has already been demonstrated by a wealth of scientific evidence: neonicotinoids are a serious threat to bees and to the future of farming. The Commission should expand the EU-wide ban to cover all uses of neonicotinoids on all crops, and end the self-service approach to derogations. Viable non-chemical alternatives exist and the EU should encourage farmers to use them.”

A recent Greenpeace report outlined a number of effective pesticide-free options for Europe’s apple production [4]. They include companion plants, predator host plants and pheromones, and the use of kaolin clay as a protective barrier on leaves to prevent insects from biting. Governments should invest in non-chemical alternatives and support a switch to a sustainable pesticide-free agriculture.

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