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The European Union has announced a plan to ban three widely-used insecticides linked to the decline in bee populations. The evidence of catastrophic insect decline is overwhelming, not just when it comes to the bee population but also other pollinators. That is why the news comes as a boost for science and evidence-based policy, as well as for consumer and environmental organisations rallied around stopping the use of bee-harming neonicotinoids.

However, several pollinator experts continue to caution that while the initial ban is a success, it doesn’t include all potential systemic pesticides related to neonicotinoids. As Prof Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment), University of Sussex, said:

However, if these neonicotinoids are simply replaced by other similar compounds such as sulfoxaflor, cyantraniliprole and flupyradifurone (all new systemic insecticides), then we will simply be going round in circles. What is needed is a move towards truly sustainable farming methods that minimise pesticide use, encourage natural enemies of crop pests, and support biodiversity and healthy soils.

There is another problem that farmers and agricultural groups are currently raising – namely, there is currently no “no sustainable alternatives” to neonicotinoids, and the ban could hurt them economically. Prof Ian Toth, Senior Scientist in Cell and Molecular Sciences, and member leading the Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPM) research, The James Hutton Institute, commented as follows:

The use of pesticides has been such an important part of crop production for decades that loss or reduction in the use of such chemicals, including neonicotinoids, will almost certainly affect crop yields and, ultimately, the price of food for consumers. Now more than ever it is so important that we find alternative methods of control through more resistant crops, biocontrol and other integrated pests management approaches.

Following a Friend’s of the Earth petition, more than 16,000 people joined the campaign to pressure UK retailers to ban the use of a number of pesticides.

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