Viewpoint: Total ban on ‘bee-harming’ neonicotinoid insecticides is not the best path forward

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Calls to ban ‘bee-harming pesticides’ heightened last year following the release of new field studies on the effects of neonicotinoids, and against a background of reports of ‘ecological Armageddon’ in the form of declining insect populations.

However, some scientists have warned of unintended consequences. One fear is that farmers will replace neonicotinoids with alternatives that may be even more damaging for wildlife. A ban may also reduce the effectiveness of other chemical control measures: our over-reliance on a few chemicals has already led to pest resistance, a problem that could be exacerbated if farmers simply replace neonicotinoids with classes of pesticide which are already widely used.

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With intensification of agriculture and a reduction in natural habitat implicated in declining bee populations, a predominant public focus on neonicotinoids also risks distracting us from other important factors affecting the health and abundance of bees and other insects.

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[T]he best way forward may lie somewhere between a total ban and the widespread use of neonicotinoids which has occurred in the past. We would like to see a more judicious use of all pesticides, with a requirement for more targeted use. A neonicotinoid ban alone, without due consideration of potential yield losses and a clear strategy for alternative pest-control measures, could leave agriculture, and potentially insects, worse off.

Editor’s note: Gia Aradottir is a scientist at Rothamsted Research and Rebecca Nesbit is an ecologist and science writer

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Read full, original post: We need a plan, not just a ban

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