The European Commission has decided to ban three neonicotinoid insecticides. These chemicals can harm honeybees, according to a large body of scientific evidence, so the European Environment Agency (EEA) commends the precautionary decision to ban them.
The three banned insecticides are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam. A recent assessment from the European Food Safety Authority also found that there were “high acute risks” from the three insecticides.
In the recent EEA report ‘Late Lessons from Early Warnings, volume II’, published in January this year, the EEA considered the body of evidence surrounding imidacloprid from scientific studies, beekeepers and industry, concluding that the chemical should be withdrawn from the market given the evidence of harm and scale of the risk. The insecticides may directly affect a wide range of organisms, both on land and in water. In addition, honeybees and other insects perform vital pollination to crops and wild plants.
The recently published Late Lessons chapter on imidacloprid has informed debate within the EU institutions, as it describes how mounting scientific evidence has been systematically suppressed for many years and early warning were ignored. Where such evidence exists, uncertainty should not be an excuse for inaction, the report states.
The ban, while welcomed, is limited in scope and should be seen as only a starting point on the discourse over the use of this class of pesticides. It only applies to three of seven neonicotinoids and only for use with “crops attractive to bees”, so it does not take into account the impacts of neonicotinoids on aquatic invertebrate species, birds or other insects which are also major areas of concern. Neither does the ban cover new neonicotinoid insecticide Sulfoxaflor which may come onto the market soon.
“Based on the body of evidence, we can see that it is absolutely correct to take a precautionary approach and ban these chemicals,” EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said.
“France has banned some of these chemicals on sunflower and maize since 2004, and it seems productivity has not been affected – 2007 was France’s best year for yield of these crops for over a decade. Also, any economic analysis should consider the almost immeasurable value of pollination carried out by honeybees and other wild bees. Indeed, continuing to use these chemicals would risk a vital service that underpins European agriculture,” Prof. McGlade said.