Neonicotinoids Not Yet Banned In Europe

Below are three videos about bees and neonicotinoids from the European Beekeeping Co-ordination.  The title of the first states:

'Neonicotinoid Insecticides – The Needed Ban'

Although the videos provide a useful background for those new to the subject, in actual fact the title could be a little confusing for some at least initially.  It could imply a ban occurred, - a ban that was needed.   I know from reading comments and even articles on websites and on forums, that there are plenty of people in the USA, Canada and Australia who believe that the EU has totally banned all neonicotinoids.

Let me be clear, unfortunately, there has been NO BAN outright on neonicotinoid insecticides in the EU at all.

What has happened is that 3 neonicotinoids and a similar, systemic insecticide called Fipronil, have been restricted in their use for just 2 years, upon which manufacturers will have the opportunity to present more data and further refute this small action.  More information here.

Whilst in one sense this very small step toward protecting bees has been significant, it is my personal fear that in the end, this restriction is worthless, will prove nothing, and ultimately could cause more problems, UNLESS an outright ban is achieved of all neonicotinoids. 


Martine Dermine of PAN Europe makes a clear and accurate point: the use of neonicotinoids is still allowed on winter cereal crops.  Neonicotinoids remain in the soil (regardless of whether they are seed coatings), and furthermore, they contaminate the soil and can pollute successive sowings for at least 2 years.  This means that flowering crops sown later in the soil, could take up the poison and then pose a very real risk to bees (see Bonmatin et al 2004/5). 

In addition to which, they pose a risk not only to honey bees, but wild bees and pollinators, particularly ground nesting bees (includes various solitary and bumblebee species).  Martine states he would like the European Commission to go further and ban all neonicotinoids, and I couldn't agree more.  My personal concern here is that thanks to inadequate restrictions imposed by the EU, it will not be scientifically possible to record any significant improvement at all in bee numbers or health, so that manufacturers and their lobbyists in Brussels will be able to claim “it cannot be proven that neonicotinoids are a problem for bees”.

Josef Stich also states – this restriction is an important step, but we should not expect to see sudden improvements in the field. 

No, I expect not.  In actual fact, one of the neonicotinoids (clothianidin) has a half life of up to 19 years in heavy soil (in other words, it will take up to 19 years for the neonicotinoids to break down to half the level of concentration at which it was first applied). 

Think about that!


Finally, I agree with Constantin Dobrescu: let’s just hope that during this 2 year restriction, farmers realize they can do without neonicotinoids.  I hope this is what they will indeed do, and that they do not simply switch to one of the remaining neonicotinoids not restricted by the EU:   clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam as well as fipronil, have all been temporarily restricted, but that still leaves thiacloprid and acetamiprid – will farmers simply switch to those neonicotinoids in some cases? 

So now to the videos: