Europe’s food safety regulator has said that BASF’s insecticide fipronil “poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize,” after risk assessment experts examined the potential risk to bees from the active substance through a number of exposure routes
A new EFSA report (found here) identified possible risks to bees from additional seed treatment with fipronil – noting that several data gaps were identified with regard exposure via dust, from consumption of contaminated nectar and pollen, and from exposure via guttation fluid.
“A high risk was indicated or could not be excluded in relation to certain aspects of the risk assessment for honey bees for some of the authorised uses,” said the EFSA report.
The new report comes a month after three other pesticides used for seed treatment were temporarily banned in the EU after a previous EFSA report in identified a possible risk to bees.
The ban affected pesticides known as neonicotinoids, produced mainly by Bayer and Syngenta, despite the EU's 27-member states failing to reach an agreement on the matter.
EFSA has now also found that fipronil, produced poses a “high acute risk” to bees when used as a seed treatment.”
However, German chemical manufacturer BASF hit back at the EFSA report, claiming that the assessment does not highlight any new risk to bee health from approved uses of fipronil.
“Any potential measures, based on this assessment, to restrict the use of fipronil in EU countries would not take into account the multiple complex factors related to bee health,” said BASF.
“BASF and other experts remain convinced that the currently observed decline in bee populations results from other causes than use of seed treatment products containing fipronil,” it said.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace is now calling on the EU to ban fipronil and to develop ‘a comprehensive plan’ to tackle the collapse in bee populations in Europe.
“The fact that Fipronil and other pesticides toxic to bees were authorised at all shows that EU safety testing is in dire need of an overhaul,” said Marco Contiero, EU agriculture policy co-ordinator. “The Commission should develop a comprehensive plan for the protection of insect pollinators, starting with a solid ban on Fipronil and other bee-harming substances.”
“These pesticides have been building up in our environment for a decade, so limited, temporary bans won't be enough to give bees a breather, particularly while other similar chemicals are still being used.”