UK science advisor: Neonicotinoid debate highlights need to reform cycle of pesticide approvals and bans

BeesObamaMAIN
Image: Larissa Walker/Center for Food Safety

New pesticides are typically licensed for use based on the guidance written on the label of the container. This guidance is constructed from efficacy and safety testing conducted in specific circumstances, but which cannot simulate all the conditions encountered by users. As demand for a new pesticide increases, growers develop farming systems and business structures that rely on it. But as unanticipated impacts and pest resistance begin to appear, community opposition to the pesticide grows, chemical companies scramble to develop ‘less harmful’ variants, and governments struggle to balance their obligations to food production and environmental responsibility. As the evidence base against the pesticide grows, governments withdraw licences for use and growers are left to pick up the pieces.

This cyclical pattern applies the world over and is driven by two opposing mythologies. The first is that agricultural productivity will collapse without using pesticides at current levels.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Neonics don't threaten bees, ban could raise food prices, increase toxic insecticide use

The second is that banning pesticides solves the problem. But historically, banning a pesticide class has often created incentives to substitute a known problem with a set of new problems that take around 20 years to appear and be banned in turn.

We need to dampen down the wild swings between using chemicals such as neonicotinoids almost without constraint on the one hand and banning their use altogether on the other hand.

Editor’s note: Ian Boyd is chief scientific advisor to the United Kingdom’s Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Read full, original post: An inside view on pesticide policy (behind paywall)

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend