EFSA claims that neonicotinoids are a threat to bees

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has claimed that three controversial neonicotinoid insecticides, imidacloprid and clothianidin, manufactured by Bayer, and thiamethoxam, from Syngenta, represent "a threat to wild bees (the common bumblebee and solitary bees) and honey bees." These pesticides, commonly used worldwide in corn, sunflower, rapeseed and cotton plantations, have been subject to restrictions in the EU since 2013, in application of the precautionary principle.

After analysing 1,500 scientific studies, the EFSA stresses that the extent of the threat varies "depending on factors such as the bee species, the pesticide's intended use and the different ways of exposure (through residues in pollen and nectar, by the dispersion of dust during the sowing of treated seeds, through water consumption, etc.)," as specified by the European agency, which admits that the risk is low in some cases. "However, taken together, the findings confirm that neonicotinoids do pose a threat to bees."

The EFSA emphasises that they are an organization devoted to the scientific evaluation of risks, and that they don't make any decisions regarding the authorization of regulated products, including pesticides. It is the Member States and the European Commission that will have to make a decision after the opinion shared by the EFSA.

The pollinating function of bees is essential in crops such as alfalfa, almonds, cucumbers and strawberries. In recent years, many scientific studies have warned of the decline in the population of bees, which has been the result of a number of threats. In addition to the abusive use of some pesticides, other threats include Asian wasps, which destroy the hives, the parasite Nosepa apis, which causes their digestive system to collapse, the Varroa mite, which ingests their internal liquids, the disappearance of their habitat, global warming, etc. Experts from EFSA acknowledged in June at a summit in Brussels that nobody knows what is really happening with bees. A lot more data needs to be collected.

For its part, the European Crop Protection Association has said through its spokesperson, Anna Gatt Seretny, that "there is no evidence to show that the restrictions on neonicotinoids have had a positive impact on the populations of bees in Europe." According to this organization, if neonicotinoids are finally banned, "the EU will quickly become a net importer of corn, wheat and other staple crops." The environmental NGO Greenpeace has asked the Spanish government to support the proposed ban on the three neonicotinoid insecticides, which will be voted in Brussels on 22 March.

Source: elpais.com

Publication date: 3/5/2018

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