Neonicotinoids, EU bans three of them


Neonicotinoids, Europe bans three insecticides harmful to bees

On 4/27/2018, the European Union permanently banned the open-field use of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethozam), some of the world’s most widely used insecticides responsible for the depopulation of bee colonies.

Neonicotinoids-substances named for their chemical structure similar to nicotine-are particularly used in agriculture because they can affect the nervous system of insects leading to their paralysis and death. (1)

Bees are “non-target targets,” critical to the environment and the economy, but systematically exposed to toxic chemical cocktails. Also seriously affected are bumblebees, butterflies, beetles, aquatic insects and even birds. (2)

The hive depopulation syndrome (‘colony collapse disorder’) affects pollinating insects more and more severely. Causing the weakening and death of bees are precisely the chemicals used in agriculture, the use of unsustainable techniques, increased monocultures, and climate change.

Not just bee damage

The ecological damage. Bees, by pollinating crops and wild plants, ensure the planet’s biodiversity. Neonicotinoids on the contrary pollute it, accumulating in waters, soils and vegetation for many years.

In addition to providing honey production, bees are crucial to plants and crops: of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, 71 are pollinated by bees (3).

At risk is the productivity of crops as well as our food supply: in fact, the ability to purchase at least a third of the food we routinely consume depends on bees.

EU measures

To protect bees, the Commission back in 2013 temporarily restricted the use of the three neonicotinoids, banning their use on specific crops. (4)

The EFSA opinion, published last February, stated that the risks to bees from their use are high, (5) thus confirming what the NGO Greenpeace has been advocating for years now.

By the end of the year, therefore, the ban on the world’s three most popular insecticides will be generalized, and they will remain usable only in greenhouses. However, it will still be possible to use four different neonicotinoids already authorized by the EU (acetamiprid, thiacloprid, sulfoxaflor and flupyradifuron).

To bee or not to bee?

Equally harmful chemicals could effectively replace the banned ones. Or could we take advantage of this first step to invest in the environment and encourage sustainable agricultural practices?

Julia Tower


  2. Environmental risks of neonicotinoid insecticides, Greenpeace, 2017
  4. EU Regulation no. 485/2013