EU neonic restrictions 'a tragedy' for beneficial insects, says UK researcher

The European Commission ‘severely restricted‘ three neonicotinoids — clothiandidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam — in an effort to protect honeybees, but critics say the regulations are doing for the very opposite.

“In 2013 the European parliament voted to ban the use of neonics on flowering plant species, because of concerns about bee health,” said Simon Kightley, a UK-based oilseed and pulse crop specialist, in an interview with RealAgriculture. “I can’t really go into the science of that because I’m not sure there is a lot of science behind it, but we got stuck with the ban.”

According to the European Commission, the decision was made in an effort to protect honeybees, and was based on a risk by the European Food Safety Authority in 2012.

For farmers who saw the ban kick in for autumn 2014 plantings of winter oilseed rape, dry, cold September conditions and high flea beetle pressure made for incredible challenges. And challenges not easily overcome by other insecticides, according to Kightley, who says there are a great number of beetles resistance to pyrethroids.

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“This is the worst thing for pollinator health, and for the health of all the beneficial predator and parasitic insects that help to control the beetle population,” says Kightley, “because there’s more pyrethroid spraying, which — not very effective at killing beetles, but they’re very effective at killing the beneficial species.”

Neonic suspension seen reducing canola yields and acres in the EU (July 2015)

And the challenge may just continue, says Kightley, with a gradually warming climate, and few UK winters dipping below 3 degrees.

The European Commission, along with its Member States, is set to evaluate a risk assessment of the active substances and current proposals to further restrict their uses this week, during the next Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.

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