A new type of pesticide that was approved for use in the EU has now been shown to have the same effects as banned neonicotinoids.
The increased use, without sufficient testing, has been described as a grave concern for bees and other pollinators by authors of a new study published this week.
In the UK alone, 80% of fruit and vegetables are pollinated by insects, including bees, flies, and butterflies.
Among these pollinators, bees are particularly important. They pollinate many of the crops we rely on for a healthy diet, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.
Neonicotinoids have been linked to colony collapse disorder, a large contributor to declining bee populations. The new class of insecticides, known as sulfoximines have undergone insufficient trials.
The study identifies the need to follow the precautionary approach, requiring the effects of toxic chemicals to be studied before their use is permitted.
Catherine Weller, senior lawyer at ClientEarth said: “The effects of these chemicals were not sufficiently studied before people were allowed to start using them.
“The fact that sulfoximines operate in a similar way to banned neonicotinoids raises questions about why they are on the market, where there is uncertainty about the danger to human health, pollinators and the wider environment. We would expect a precautionary approach in decision making.”
A previous study has attempted to calculate the impact that the decline of pollinators would have on food production and human health. The study shows that without pollinators people are more vulnerable to serious diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. This evidence highlights the importance of ensuring that bees and other pollinators do not suffer further decline.
Neonicotinoids are banned in the EU for their sub-lethal effects on pollinators. They are particularly harmful as they are systemic – making all parts of the plant poisonous to bees. They are harmful even in small doses, and they remain in the environment long after they have been used.
The increased use of sulfoximines could undermine the current ban on neonicotinoids, and have serious implications for the future of pollinators, food production and human health.