A week ago, all eyes in the European arable industry were on the European Commission as they decided whether or not to place a ban on neonicotinoids, the pesticide family thought to be influencing the decline in bee populations. In fact, in the end, only 15 member states voted for the ban on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam (the three neonicotinoids in question) resulting in no clear majority. However, the Commission will still have the option to impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids. We have to wait and see what the next paper says on the matter.
Bees are major pollinators in our ecosystems and the decline in populations should be one of the world’s major concerns. However, there is I feel insufficient data to go ahead with a full ban on neonicotinoids at this stage. Far more research needs to be done before we can be fully conclusive that there is a direct link between the two. Neonicotinoids have the ability to be targeted and many farmers choose to apply it in this fashion. Spraying alternatives would affect more of the field system than currently used. The ban could therefore worsen the environmental risk.
Nick von Westenholz, the chief executive of the Crop Protection Association points the blame to the Varroa mite and parasitic diseases, combined with the problems associated with habitat loss, colony stress and climate change, as the key factors implicated in declining bee populations. It is a combination of factors and a variety of measures need to be taken. Placing the blame on neonics is insufficient. I for one will be interested to see how the initial 2 year ban goes forth, when it is given the go ahead. I am sceptical we will see improvements and indeed I think there will be added environmental costs for the reasons set out above.
Please leave your comments below. For or against I would appreciate hearing other views on the matter.