The European Union is calling for a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides after it was confirmed that the chemicals are severely harmful to bees.
As we’ve reported, previous studies have shown that neonicotinoids, the most common pesticides in the world, cause more bee deaths and can disrupt a bee’s natural foraging and pollinating abilities.
Concerns over the pesticides led the EU to ban the use of neonicotinoids on oil seed rape and other important crops. But now that the negative impact to wild bees and honey bees has been confirmed, the EU is pushing for a total ban on all crops excluding those grown in a greenhouse.
The European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA), following up on a report released in 2013, conducted a complete assessment of the risks three major neonicotinoid pesticides posed to bees, the results of which were released on February 28th.
Philip Donkersley, a senior research associate at Lancaster University, reviewed the report and found that bees have a high risk of exposure because they feed on nectar from plants that have been treated with the pesticides.
“This exposure affects solitary bee reproduction, colony viability and learning ability in bumblebees,” Donkersley told the Daily Mail.
The EFSA’s Pesticides Unit examined all scientific evidence on the harmful risks neonicotinoids posed to bees that had been published since 2013, when the last assessment was made. But this time, the assessment included wild bees such as bumblebees and solitary honey bees.
After analyzing all the data, the EFSA team in charge of the review reported that neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to all the types of the bees included in their research.
“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,” said Jose Tarazona, the head of EFSA’s Pesticides Unit. “Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.”
The UK government is in support of the ban and will ensure that all restrictions on the harmful neonicotinoids are kept in place even after Brexit, when the UK officially leaves the European Union.
Researchers hope the EFSA’s assessment will motivate other countries in the EU to follow in the UK’s footsteps, and the complete outdoor ban on the three neonicotinoids will soon be a reality.