EU Plans to ban Neonicotinoids

The European Union plans to ban the world’s most widely used insecticides in an effort to protect bees and other valuable pollinator insects. The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Not only have these insecticides been linked to dramatic declines in bees and other pollinators, they’re also suspected in declines in many other insect species, along with insect-eating birds and bats. Even important creatures like earthworms are being damaged by neonics, a four-year investigation by the task force found.

The EU had previously banned use of neonics on flowering crops that are known to specifically attract bees, noting that an estimated three quarters of important food crops may be pollinated by bees.

Bad News for the Bees and for Us

Three-quarters of all honey on Earth has pesticides in it! In 2013, the European Union banned the use of three neonics on crops that are visited by bees. But because these pesticides are used to coat the seeds of crops, much of it leaches onto the soil, contaminating nearby wildflowers and other crops. Even in tiny doses, these chemicals can harm bees. “These neonicotinoids are extremely, extremely toxic, according to Edward Mitchell, the leader of the Laboratory of Soil Biology at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, they are 4 to 5,000 times more toxic than DDT.

And the problem could be even worse, according to Christopher Connolly, a neurobiologist at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine, recent studies only tested the honey for five neonics, but crop fields are sometimes sprayed with more than 20 chemicals and bees hop from field to field, Connolly says. So the honey could contain many more pesticides.

These findings are concerning not only for bees. Even though most studies have focused on how neonics harm honeybees, these pesticides are likely to harm many more insects, including butterflies, moths, and earthworms that live in contaminated soil, Connolly says. But our ecosystems need a variety of bugs to be strong and resilient, just as our crops need a variety of pollinators to survive. If we keep using pesticides indiscriminately, “we don’t know when we can expect a tipping point,” Connolly says. “This is a very dangerous strategy for human-kind to go down.”

Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees

Field results confirm that neonicotinoids negatively affect pollinator health under realistic agricultural conditions. Read the full publication here.

Bee Experts Dismantle Touted 'Harvard' Neonics-Colony Collapse Disorder Study As 'Activist Science'.

Chensheng Lu was in his element last month at a speech before a green group at Harvard Law School. The School of Public Health professor was lecturing on his favorite topic--his only subject these days, as it has become his obsession: why he believes bees around the world are in crisis.

Lu is convinced, unequivocally, that a popular pesticide hailed by many scientists as a less toxic replacement for farm chemicals proven to be far more dangerous to humans and the environment is actually a killer in its own right. "We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives," claimed Lu. The future of our food system and public health, he said, hangs in the balance. Read more

EU bans three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family for a period of two years

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.

The Commission's action was in response to the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) scientific report, which identified "high acute risks" for bees as regards exposure to dust in several crops such as corn, cereals and sunflowers, to residues in pollen and nectar in crops like oilseed rape and sunflower and to guttation in corn.

In the US, the EPA is not currently banning or severely restricting the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides. The neonicotinoid pesticides are currently being re-evaluated through registration review.

Graham White's Presentation on the Effect of Insecticides on Bees

An excellent presentation by Graham White, which covers the effect of neonicotinoids on bees.

Bee afraid, bee very afraid - Neonicotinoids and the nAChRs family

The reasons for the decline are currently not clear. However, some studies have linked the reduction in bee numbers to a widely-used class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, that have been broadly administered in large-scale crop production since the mid 1990’s – the same time that mass bee disappearances started to be reported 2. These nicotine-like chemicals, which include three key neonicotinoids: thiamethoxam 3, clothianidin 4,5 and imidacloprid 6,7,8, are considered safe for mammals, but are highly toxic to insects.

Read More

The use of neonicotinoids in pest control

In reference to a US patent by Lee et al. filed on March 19, 2013, there is now described a method of controlling pests with nitroimino- or nitroguanidino-compounds; more specifically a method of controlling pests in and on transgenic crops of useful plants, such as, for example, in crops of maize, cereals, soya beans, tomatoes, cotton, potatoes, rice and mustard, with a nitroimino- or nitroguanidino-compound, especially with thiamethoxam, characterized in that a pesticidal composition comprising a nitroimino- or nitroguanidino-compound in free form or in agrochemically useful salt form and at least one auxiliary is applied to the pests or their environment, in particular to the crop plant itself.

Read the Full Patent

Neonicotinoids, a class of neuro-active insecticides

Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine.The development of this class of insecticides began with work in the 1980s by Shell and the 1990s by Bayer.The neonicotinoids were developed in large part because they show reduced toxicity compared to previously used organophosphate and carbamate insecticides.Most neonicotinoids show much lower toxicity in mammals than insects, but some breakdown products are toxic.

ChEBI: The database and ontology of Chemical Entities of Biological Interest