Crops News

EU neonicotinoid report creates buzz, may not save bees


According to the European Union Food Safety Authority, most uses of neonicotinoids represent a risk to wild bees and honeybees. The report released this week comes out despite strong evidence that shows neonicotinoid pesticides are the least of concern when it comes to saving bees.

The Authority has updated its risk assessments of three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam – currently subject to restrictions in the EU because of the threat they pose to bees. These new conclusions update those published in 2013, after which the European Commission imposed controls on use of the substances.

For the new assessments, which this time cover wild bees – bumblebees and solitary bees – as well as honeybees, EFSA’s Pesticides Unit carried out an extensive data collection exercise, including a systematic literature review, to gather all the scientific evidence published since the previous evaluations.

Jose Tarazona, Head of EFSA’s Pesticides Unit, said: “The availability of such a substantial amount of data as well as the guidance has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions.

“There is variability in the conclusions, due to factors such as the bee species, the intended use of the pesticide and the route of exposure. Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.”

EFSA’s conclusions will be shared with risk managers from the European Commission and Member States, who will consider potential amendments to the current restrictions on the use of these pesticides.

Researchers from the Universities of Wageningen, Ghent, and Amsterdam came to a different conclusion when they summarized 15 years of research on the hazards of neonicotinoids to bees for the first time. While many laboratory studies and other studies applying artificial exposure conditions described sublethal and other effects, no adverse effects to bee colonies were ever observed in field studies at field-realistic exposure conditions.

These findings are in line with many large-scale, multifactorial studies that were undertaken in the USA, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, and other countries. The studies have shown poor bee health is more often correlated with the presence of the Varroa mites, viruses, and many other factors, but not with the use of insecticides.

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