EFSA’s report highlighted three neonicotinoid insecticides – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – saying that they should only be used ‘on crops not attractive to honey bees’. The investigation into insecticides is part of broader research into potential causes of colony collapse disorder, the rapid loss of adult bees from a colony or hive.
The phenomenon could have major implications for the food chain as bees play a crucial role in pollinating many food crops.
“Given the importance of bees in the ecosystem and the food chain and given the multiple services they provide to humans, their protection is essential,” EFSA said in a statement. “With its mandate to improve EU food safety and to ensure a high level of consumer protection, EFSA has an important role to play in ensuring their survival.”
However, the food safety body added that in some cases it was unable to finalise its assessments due to ‘shortcomings in the available data’.
Bayer CropScience said it was willing to work with the European Commission and Member States “to develop pragmatic solutions to address the perceived data gaps which EFSA consider to be present.”
The company said it had “generated extensive safety data for its neonicotinoid-containing crop protection products” and EU authorities had “confirmed the absence of any unacceptable risk”.
EFSA said in its latest assessment that insecticide residues were thought to affect bees by contaminating dust and collecting on nectar and pollen. It added that the evaluation carried a ‘high level of uncertainty’, as a final guidance document for the risk assessment of plant protection products and bees was still being developed.
Among factors thought to contribute to colony collapse disorder, experts have identified beekeeping and husbandry practices, chemical factors, and biological agents like parasites, viruses and bacteria. However, the respective role of each factor is poorly understood.