A new analysis from the EU’s scientific risk assessors has found that neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides, pose a serious threat to honeybees and wild bees. This major assessment adds to the case pushing for these harmful pesticides to be banned across member states during the vote that is to take place next month.
The report was published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and made conclusions based on analysis of more than 1,500 studies, the Guardian reports. Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, have already been proven to be harmful to bees. Now, the risk to bees was found to vary depending on the crop and exposure route – but “for all the outdoor uses, there was at least one aspect of the assessment indicating a high risk.”
For the first time, the assessment included bumblebees and solitary bees. It established that neonicotinoids’ high risk to bees comes not from its use on non-flowering crops but from wider contamination of the soil and water. This contamination leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers and succeeding crops. The new conclusions are an important and alarming update of those published by EFSA in 2013.
“The availability of such a substantial amount of data has enabled us to produce very detailed conclusions,” said Jose Tarazona, head of EFSA’s pesticides unit. “There is variability in the conclusions [and] some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.”
The report was welcomed by many scientists and environmentalists who are hoping for further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids. “We have been playing Russian roulette with the future of our bees for far too long,” said Sandra Bell from Friends of the Earth. “EU countries must now back a tougher ban.”
According to the agency, the risk managers from European Commission and the Member States will now consider potential amendments to the current restrictions on the use of the pesticides in question.
Bees are absolutely crucial for food production on the planet. 70 of the top 100 food crops grown worldwide rely on pollinators, which is equivalent to 90 percent of the world’s nutrition. A partial EU ban on neonicotinoids was passed in April 2013 – it banned the use of three main neonicotinoids on flowering crops. Hopefully, the new findings will pave the way for a total ban on the use of the dangerous pesticide which is cited as one of the main reasons for the plummeting numbers of pollinators in the recent years, and a similar measure will be considered in the U.S.
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