The GBO commissioned the University of Sussex, UK, to conduct the newest study on the subject, which concluded that neonicotinoid pesticides have more harmful effects to pollinators than what was previously concluded in a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) study published in 2013.
Agricultural policy director at Greenpeace, Marco Contiero, asked how much more damage needs to be done before the ban is put in place.
“Science clearly shows that neonicotinoids are omnipresent and persistent in the wider environment, not just in agricultural fields. These substances are routinely found in soils, waterways and wildflowers. We must get rid of potent neurotoxins like neonicotinoids from our fields and environment,” he said.
Since releasing the results, Greenpeace has restarted the conversation about the pesticides being banned in Europe; currently there is a partial ban on neonicotinoids in Europe.
Speaking to Greenpeace, Dave Goulson, biology professor and leading expert on the ecology of bumblebees, said the report uncovers the harmful effects of neonicotinoids on not only honeybees, but also wild bees, butterflies, birds and aquatic insects.
“The case that neonicotinoids are contributing to wild bee declines and exacerbating honeybee health issues is stronger than it was when the partial EU ban was adopted. In addition to bees, neonicotinoids can plausibly be linked to declines of butterflies, birds and aquatic insects. Given evidence for such widespread environmental harm it would seem prudent to extend the scope of the current European restriction,” he said.
Although honey is a small sector in the European agricultural market, 75% of human diet is directly or indirectly dependent by pollination from bees, making the bee crisis essential.
The study also showed a possible ripple effect of the pesticides through the food chain.
The current ban prohibits neonicotinoids being used on crops that attract bees; however the report released by Greenpeace says that bees are still at risk from “dust drift” exposure, despite new ways of sowing seeds being introduced, and exposure from target plants.
The neonicotinoids boom
Neonicotinoids were introduced in the mid-1990s.
Five types of neonicotinoids are authorised for use in agriculture in the UK: acetamiprid; clothianidin; imidacloprid; thiacloprid; and thiamethoxam.
They are mainly used as seed treatment for cereals, sugar beet and oil seed rape.
There is currently a partial ban on the use of neonicotinoids in Europe, prohibiting the use of them on specific crops.
Source: PAN UK Bees
The study concluded there was a greater risk than presented in previous studies from exposure from non-target plants, as the presence of neonicotinoids has been found in the pollen, nectar and foliage of wild plants.
Despite the concentration of neonicotinoids in wild plants being much smaller than in targeted crops, the exposure of the pesticide to the bees is prolonged.
The research, conducted by Goulson and Thomas Wood, both researchers at Sussex University, also reported a greater risk to wild bees from neonicotinoids, an area that previously had very limited assessment.
However, stingless bees, which are not found in Europe, were proven to be the least sensitive to neonicotinoids. Researchers have hypnotised this is due to the size of the bees, however Wood and Goulson state there is still not enough evidence to confirm this.