Last Saturday marked the 3rd anniversary of the EU-wide ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid. The ban was introduced following an Efsa ruling in 2012 that they posed an “unacceptable” danger to bees. The ‘neonics’ affect parts of the bee’s brain where sensory information related to orientation is stored. Scientists fear that exposure to even low doses of the substances confuse bees, making it harder for them to find good sources of nutrition or safely return home to their hives. This ban was hailed as one of the hardest won environmental campaign victories, placing over 2 million petitioners against powerful pesticide manufacturers. Modern science has served to affirm the understanding that neonics are incredibly harmful to bees, a US study published last week announced that the use of imidacloprid can push hive numbers onto a downward spiral. One third of our food supply relies upon natural pollinators, without protection it is predicted that more than a quarter of European bumblebees and 1 in 10 honeybees are at risk of extinction.

The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) is now reviewing the ban in a move that could pave the way for a policy U-turn, risking the already dwindling European bee populations. Greenpeace have however stated that they are optimistic that the review will confirm the 2012 agreement as the Efsa are now working to more rigorous regulations; including the differentiation between the effects on the neonics on different species of bee, something that the pesticide industry has fought hard to prevent. Europe’s pollinators are estimated to be worth £16bn a year, but 1 in 6 of them died off between 1985 and 2005 – with greater declines recorded in the UK, Germany and Sweden, countries that are known for their use of neonic pesticides. France is now leading the way with a complete ban on neonics bringing the global ban on toxic pesticides to well within our reach!

Show your support for protecting these important pollinators by asking your MP to back the ban on bee-harming pesticides:

Article by Jodie Hopewell