European science academy links neonics to harm of many beneficial insects, not just bees

| | April 10, 2015

An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides believed to contribute to mass deaths of honeybees is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances had a place in sustainable agriculture.

The finding could have repercussions on both sides of the Atlantic for the companies that produce the chemicals, which are known as neonicotinoids.

Research has been directed largely at the effects of neonicotinoids on honeybees, but that focus “has distorted the debate,” according to the report released on Wednesday by the European Academies Science Advisory Council.

The council is an independent body composed of representatives from the national science academies of European Union member states.

A growing body of evidence shows that the widespread use of the pesticides “has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity,” the report’s authors said.

Predatory insects like parasitic wasps and ladybugs provide billions of dollars’ worth of insect control, they noted, and organisms like earthworms contribute billions more through improved soil productivity. All are harmed by the pesticides.

“This is not new research or even a meaningful review of all the studies available,” Jean-Charles Bocquet, director general of the European Crop Protection Association, said in a statement. “Rather, it is a misleading and very selective reading of some of the literature, especially from organizations well known for their opposition to neonicotinoids.”

Read full, original article: Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Deaths Pose More Risks, European Group Says

  • James Hayes

    I am increasingly disturbed and concerned by how vocal some groups have become regarding GMO’s and pesticides without any filter for their points. If I were to say Ozone at ground level is harmful there would pop up a group against oxygen without the slightest context to the original statement. I am glad there are persons of science who write articles like these with the specificity used in making informed decisions towards our future. Not nearly enough people read without having a bias already confirmed,because there is a place for pesticides …. just not all of them.

  • DJ

    If this holds up, it could be a game-changer. On the other hand, this could just be another attempt to move the goalposts after failing for 20 year to prove that neonics are evil or actually killing off bees.

    It appears to me to be the latter, but I’ll wait for the rest of the scientific community to review and comment on the report before I decide which.

  • Alokin

    I don’t get it. Neonics are often preferred by farmers because they are easier on beneficials and less disruptive than other options and therefore, lead to fewer problems with secondary pests. From an environmental point of view, it makes no sense to target what is one of the most benign insecticides in our toolbox.

  • Wackes Seppi

    I must admit, I have only perused the 60+ pages.

    But, reading from the summary, we have yet again a case of overinterpretation and dysinformation. The conclusions are :

    1. There is an increasing body of evidence that the widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoids has severe negative effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services including pollination and natural pest control.

    2. There is clear scientific evidence for sublethal effects of very low levels of neonicotinoids over extended periods on non-target beneficial organisms. These should be addressed in EU approval procedures.

    3. Current practice of prophylactic usage of neonicotinoids is inconsistent with the basic principles of integrated pest management as expressed in the EU’s Sustainable Pesticides Directive.

    4. Widespread use of neonicotinoids (as well as other pesticides) constrains the potential for restoring biodiversity in farmland under the EU’s Agrienvironment Regulation.

    According to the press release :

    « As the EASAC report acknowledges, all pesticides involve a balancing act between the desired effect on food production and the inevitable risk of collateral damage to non-target species and the environment. In the case of the neonicotinoids, the increase in scientific knowledge over the last two years suggests that the current balance requires reassessment. »

    It is thus quite far-fetched to state that :

    « An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides … is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances had a place in sustainable agriculture. »

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