An EASAC report on the effects on neonicotinoid insecticides in 2015 led to an European Union wide ban of most damaging neonicotinoid pesticides. Now a new report by EASAC member academies confirms previous results about the detrimental effects of neonicotinoids and points out loopholes in the regulation.

The new report “Neonicotinoids and their substitutes in sustainable pest control” by The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is focused on an area where the European academies together have had great impact in the past: pesticides and their use in European agriculture. Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides, chemically similar to nicotine, used in agriculture. 

The first report by EASAC member academies on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture was published in 2015. The report suggested that widespread use of neonicotinoids has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity. Furthermore the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture not only burdens the environment but also the climate as the manufacturing and logistics of neonicotinoids are a significant source of agricultural emissions.

“The new report confirms what the previous report suggested: neonicotinoids have detrimental effects on organisms, nature and biodiversity. General environmental contamination caused by neonicotinoids has adverse implications in relation to food production and global food security”, states Professor Ian Hardy, one of the contributors to the new report.

The report was prepared jointly by EASAC academies. Professor Ian Hardy from the Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki participated in the working group that prepared the report. 

Loopholes threaten to water down EU-level regulations

The 2015 report caused great alarm in many European Union (EU) Member States with the Environment minister of the Netherlands declaring an immediate ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. The discussion led to the European Parliament banning the most damaging neonicotinoid pesticides EU-wide, which was a great success for science-based advice to policy-making. Despite the ban there remain many loopholes in EU legislation regarding ‘neonics’.

“Despite the open field use of neonicotinoids is banned, the use in exceptional circumstances is allowed and particular farming groups can apply for exemption permits. These permits should only be granted in exceptional situations, but in many places they are given too readily and on a regular basis”, Hardy describes the report’s findings.

Another regulatory loophole highlighted by the report are new insecticides entering the market that are not classified as neonicotinoids, despite having similar effects.

“New, permitted insecticides can at worst be even more harmful than the banned neonicotinoids”, Hardy states.

The report suggests several measures to be taken to tackle the regulatory loopholes. These include better testing framework and regulatory framework, revision of risk assessment and promotion of integrated pest management instead of chemical insecticide use. 

Read the full report here:

The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a cooperation organization of European science academies. The Council of Finnish Academies (CoFA) is a national member of EASAC.