January 18, 2013
Three reports by Europe’s food-safety body have stoked controversy over the possible links between the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and declining bee populations. One leading insecticide manufacturer has attacked the reports, calling them “hurried and inadequate”.
A number of scientific studies have linked neonicotinoids to adverse effects on bee colonies (see Nature video) but some researchers believe that the drop in bee numbers seen in the United States, Europe and elsewhere is attributable to a combination of factors.
The latest assessments from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, are based on existing studies of three neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The reports conclude that these chemicals should be used only on crops that are not attractive to honey bees, so that the insects are not exposed to the insecticides through pollen and nectar. Dust and plant sap contaminated with the chemicals may also pose a risk to bees, says the EFSA.