EFSA Report On Neonicotinoids
And Their Effects On Bees

A recent report on Neonicotinoids insecticides from EFSA, concludes that the current regulatory system for assessing pesticides has many weaknesses.  EFSA are the European Food Safety Authority. 

To see the report copy and paste this link into your browser:

Summary of the report

Here is a quote from the summary - it highlights major issues with regulatory tests for assessing risk of pesticides to bees:

"The working group identified the need for improvement of existing laboratory, semi-field and field testing and areas for further research.

Several exposure routes of pesticides are not evaluated in laboratory conditions, such as the intermittent and prolonged exposures of adult bees, exposure through inhalation and the exposure of larvae.

Likewise, the effects of sub-lethal doses of pesticides are not fully covered in the conventional standard tests.

Sub-lethal effects should be taken into account and observed in laboratory studies.

Potential laboratory methods to investigate sub-lethal effects would be testing of Bombus microcolonies to investigate effects on reproduction, proboscis extension reflex (PER) test for neurotoxic effects and homing behaviour for effects on foraging, including orientation.

Further research is needed in order to integrate the results of these studies in the risk assessment scheme.

Semi-field testing appears to be a useful option of higher tier testing.

Nevertheless, weaknesses have been identified for each of the test guidelines e.g. the limited size of crop area, the impossibility to evaluate all the possible exposure routes of the systemic compounds used as seed- and soil-treatments (SSST), the limited potential to extrapolate the findings on larger colony sizes used in field studies or the relatively short timescale (one brood cycle).

The guideline for field testing (EPPO 170) (4) has several major weaknesses (e.g. the small size of the colonies, the very small distance between the hives and the treated field, the very low surface of the test field), leading to uncertainties concerning the real exposures of the honey bees.

The guideline is better suited to the assessment of spray products than of seed- and soil-treatments. Points for research and improvement of methods used in field testing are highlighted (e.g. methods for detection of mortality)."

A Further Report...........

A further EU report states the Precautionary Principle should be applied. 

The report is called:

"Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees" (published Dec 2012).

A summary of the main points is below.

However, if you'd like to see the whole report, the PDF can be downloaded by copying and pasting this web address into a new window:

studiesdownload.html?languageDocument=EN&file=79433 .

This report states:


  • Although bee declines can be attributed to multifarious causes, the use of neonicotinoids is increasingly held responsible for recent honeybee losses.

  • Neonicotinoids show high acute toxicity to honeybees.

  • Chronical exposure of honeybees to sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoids can also result in serious effects, which include a wide range of behavioural disturbances in bees, such as problems with flying and navigation, impaired memory and learning, reduced foraging ability, as well as reduction in breeding success and disease resistance.

  • Recent scientific findings are urging to reassess the bee safety of approved uses of neonicotinoid insecticides at European level.

    A current review, carried out by the
    European Food Safety Authority EFSA (on behalf of the European Commission) will give new insights into this issue.

  • As long as there are uncertainties concerning the effects of neonicotinoids on honey bees, the precautionary principle in accordance with the Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 should be applied when using neonicotinoids."

What Is The Precautionary Principle?

The Precautionary Principle states that if there are reasonable scientific grounds for believing that a new product may not be safe, it should not be used until there is convincing evidence that the risks are small and outweighed by the benefits.

This is enshrined in Directive 91/414 which states that:

“Member States shall ensure that a plant protection product is not authorized unless…..it has no unacceptable influence on the environment.”

“Authorizations may be reviewed at any time if there are indications that any of the requirements….are no longer satisfied.”

"Several recent publications suggest that exposure to different classes of neonicotinoids even at very low doses reduces the fitness of bees.

As long as these and other questions remain unclear the precautionary principle in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market should be applied, ensuring a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

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