The European Union voted in April 2018 to ban three controversial neonicotinoid insecticides on all crops grown outdoors because of their adverse effects on pollinators, especially honey bees. The decision caused quite a stir in the farming community because neonicotinoid insecticides had certain advantages in crops like soya. For centuries, gardeners have been using home-made mixtures of tobacco leaves and water as a natural pesticide to kill insect pests. The first commercially available compound was imidacloprid and has been in use since the early 1990s. Neonicotinoids and Fipronil account for approximately 1/3 of the insecticide market worldwide. The success of neonicotinoids as insecticides in agriculture was the result of no known pesticide resistance in target pests, especially boring insects and roof-feeding insects that cannot easily controlled by foliar sprays. Neonicotinoids are licensed for use in more than 120 countries and have a global market value of $2·6 billion, with imidacloprid alone comprising 41% of this market and being the second most widely used agrochemical in the world. In the last 20 years studies investigated if neonicotinoids have contributed to yield increases in farming or whether neonicotinoids offer economic benefits compared to alternatives. Most results were negative. In the last decade much of the controversy over the use of neonicotinoids has focussed on their effects on honey bees. Neonicotinoids are routinely used to dress seeds of oilseed rape, sunflower and maize, and these crops are major forage sources for both managed honeybees and wild pollinators in arable landscapes. Being systemic, small concentrations of neonicotinoids are found in both pollen and nectar of seed‐treated crops. Neonicotinoids are also routinely applied as foliar sprays to fruit crops such as raspberries (mainly thiacloprid), which are visited by both managed and wild pollinators. In 27 April 2018 the European Commission expanded a controversial ban of three neonicotinoid insecticides because of the threat they pose to pollinators. Already, from 2013 the EU placed a moratorium on 3 neonicotinoids forbitting their use in flowering crops that appeal to honey bees and other pollinators. The last decision was greeted with trepidation by farming associations which fear economic harm. There is no ban of neonicotinoids in other countries. This review presents all the facts from scientific studies on neonicotinoids.
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