Pesticides harm bees - European Union food safety watchdog confirms 2013 findings

Pesticides harm bees - European Union food safety watchdog confirms 2013 findings

The EU restricted the use of three types of neonicotinoid - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam - in 2013 as part of efforts to protect bees and commissioned a deeper report into their effects, gathering all available studies on the issue.

The assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) says "most uses" of the three neonicotinoids studied pose a risk to pollinators including wild solitary bees, bumblebees and honeybees.

Bees all over Europe may soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief, after new evidence reinforces the case against harmful neonicotinoids, the world's most used pesticides.

The chemicals are commonly used to treat seeds and are taken up by crops as they grow.

However, a spokesman for Syngenta, a neonicotinoid manufacturer, said: "Efsa sadly continues to rely on a [bee risk guidance] document that is overly conservative, extremely impractical and would lead to a ban of most if not all insecticides, including organic products".

Wednesday's report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) triggered immediate calls from environmental campaigners for tighter restrictions on neonicotinoids, if not an outright ban. The team also applied the guidance document developed by EFSA specifically for the risk assessment of pesticides and bees.

"The availability of such a substantial amount of data as well as the guidance has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions", said Jose Tarazona, head of EFSA's pesticides unit.

"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".

The agency undertook a systematic literature review of 1,500 studies and collected additional data to assess the risk of using the insecticide on both wild bees and honeybees. 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. The experts have supported the conclusions.

"This is because pollen and nectar of the treated crop contain pesticide residues, and plants in the vicinity can also be contaminated by dust drifting away from the field".

Restrictions have been in place within the European Union since 2013, but the updated study is likely to lead to a complete ban on the substance.

Many environmentalists and scientists welcomed the news, according to The Guardian.

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.

Bayer CropScience, which manufactures imidacloprid and clothianidin, said Efsa's conclusions do not justify further restrictions on neonicotinoids.