Neonicotinoids have become the most widely used class of insecticide in the world, with registration in 120 countries. However, these pesticides have become embroiled in multi-year controversy in Europe and North America due to their risk to beneficial species. Studies have identified declines in a wide range of insects in areas with farmland treated with noenicitinoid insecticides, including honeybees and wild bees.
Given the concern about the impact of pesticides, you would expect their use to be strictly governed globally. The reality is that 35 percent of the world has zero pesticide legislation, and restrictions on neonicotinoids are only just emerging. The fact is that we rely on both farmers and pollinators for the food we eat, and regulation is a balancing act. Farmers need tools to control crop pests; at the same time, there is a need to control the unintended consequences on non-targeted organisms.
However, over the last 12 months, some regulators have started to take notice, which offers some hope that the decline in honey bees and wild pollinators can be reversed. Policy makers in other jurisdictions will be paying close attention to those nations moving towards legislation after all this is very much a global issue.
A recent study found neonicotinoids in 75 percent of the 200 honey samples from around the world. Levels of contamination are highest in North America (86 percent), followed by Asia (80 percent), Europe (79 percent), Africa (73 percent) Australasia (71 percent) and South America (57 percent).
Our last blog discussed ‘what is’ neonicotinoids in a nutshell. In this blog, we look at what’s happening to control the issue in these areas around the globe:
In December 2019 the European Union will enforce a complete and permanent ban on the outdoor use of the three main neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam). Some farmers believe it will have a significant impact on the types of crops produced across the continent. This will force imports from outside Europe instead, where crops are often treated with neonicotinoids.
France has gone one step further and has become the first country in Europe to introduce a blanket ban on all five neonic pesticides that researchers believe are killing off insects. This is the most comprehensive legislation in the world, but that’s not the end of it. There is concern that the new generation of pesticides designed to replace neonicotinoids, based on sulfoximine, may have similar risks and is already gaining approval in some countries.
In 2013-14, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to enforce rules permitting growers to only use neonicotinoid seed treatments on 20 percent of their acres. Unfortunately, farmers have not moved away from treated seeds fast enough. In August 2018, Health Canada said it would move to restrict the use of two neonicotinoids over a two to three year period, but latest reports suggest they are softening their stance. A final decision is expected in late 2019.
The United States remains at a standstill, with the Saving America’s Pollinators Act stuck with the Agricultural House Committee since 2013, despite efforts to move things forward. On their website, the EPA currently states that the agency “is not proposing any mitigation,” i.e., limits on neonic use ”at this stage.”
Heading south and the outlook is similar, with little evidence of change, although; Costa Rica has been hit hard by the loss of bee colonies and honey production. In less than 20 years it has shifted from an exporting nation to an importer, now relying on supplies from Guatemala and El Salvador. Despite efforts to prohibit neonicotinoids the ministries have rejected proposals for now.
It’s on the agenda! Neonicotinoids and Their Impact on Ecosystem Services for Agriculture and Biodiversity in Africa launched in November 2018. The initiative will consolidate all knowledge on neonicotinoid use across Africa. Funding for the project, which is expected to take about a year to complete, is provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
In and Around Australia
Campaigners have succeeded to remove household pesticides containing neonicotinoids from the shelves of major stores, including Bunnings Warehouse and Woolworths. For now, that’s as far as it goes. Australian regulators remain unmoved. A review in 2013 highlighted an overall reduction in risks to the agricultural environment and the Government recently said they won’t be a review because Australia’s honey bee populations are not in decline. The campaign continues.
The position in New Zealand is that neonicotinoids are used in a very different way to Europe and on a much smaller scale especially since most bee farms are in areas away from other cultivation.
Foggy Future: Tough Calls to Be Made
As things stand, Europe is ahead of the game; the question is will others follow? The message coming out of Europe is certainly getting noticed. Tough calls need to be made. Policymakers across the globe will need to consider programs in an effort to shake things.
Taking Neonicotinoids Testing To Their Labs
Check out some great work on neonicotinoids testing using SCIEX instruments.
- Quantitative Analysis of Neonicotinoid Insecticide Residues in Foods: Implication for Dietary Exposures
- LC-MS/MS Analysis of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Honey: Methodology and Residue Findings in Austrian Honey
- Neonicotinoid Insecticide Residues in Surface Water and Soil Associated with Commercial Maize (Corn) Fields in Southwestern Ontario
- Genomic insights into neonicotinoid sensitivity in the solitary bee Osmia bicornis
- Factors influencing the occurrence and distribution of neonicotinoid insecticides in surface waters of southern Ontario, Canada
- Neonicotinoid concentrations in urine from chronic kidney disease patients in the North Central Region of Sri Lanka