New Call To Ban Neonicotinoids


Neonicotinoids are a controversial pesticide, used to kill aphids with the aim of protecting crops. The problem is they also – probably – harm bees. Given honeybee populations are in decline worldwide, and the prominent role bees play with pollinating crops, this is by many environmentalists as bad news. Around 16 percent of Europe’s honeybee colonies disappeared between 1985 and 2005, and the indiscriminate use of certain pesticides is thought to be one of the causative factors.

Neonicotinoids are neuro-active insecticides similar in chemical structure to nicotine. They are used as pesticides to protect specific crops.

The pesticide is allowed in certain parts of Europe (like the U.K.), whereas it remains suspended, or restricted, pending a review in other territories. One such area in France, and here the chemical looks unlikely to be granted a revival. In March 2016, members of the National Assembly (France’s lower house of parliament) agreed to enforce a total ban on the use of the chemical from 1 January 2017.

In 2013, the European Commission had placed a two-year moratorium on three kinds of neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. This moratorium expired in December 2015 and is currently under review. The debate within the French parliament is part of this process.

The U.S. has already instigated a ban on the chemicals. Following field trials, carried out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the conclusion is that a common neonicotinoid called imidacloprid leads to hive populations declining. Moreover, in Canada Ontario has issued a new regulation aimed at reducing the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides.

In related news, it might be that the use of pesticides in general does not make economic sense. The French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has conducted a study on the external costs of these products and has concluded the amount farmers spend buying pesticides does not lead to an improvement in the quality of agriculture to a level that justifies the price paid.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.