The use of neonicotinoid insecticides in agriculture has been considered by many as having revolutionized the farmers’ ability to control damaging pests in a more environmentally-friendly way. Despite these benefits, there are others who have sought to take a different view on this type of insecticide. What has contributed to the latter point of view and what is our perspective?
Neonicotinoids are an important family of insecticides introduced two decades ago. They were adopted by farmers around the world because of their effectiveness in controlling harmful and destructive crop pests, some of which had developed resistance to other insecticides already on the market.
Bayer’s neonicotinoid products are widely used in a variety of applications including seed-applied insecticides and sprays. Systemic seed treatments protect the seeds from within, because their active ingredients are taken up by the seeds, helping them to withstand soil-borne pests and early season foliar pests during the early stages of plant development.
Neonicotinoid-based products have replaced many older agricultural crop protection products because of their effectiveness against harmful pests, excellent operator safety, and a relatively favorable environmental profile.
Recently published scientific studies have received significant attention, because they raised concerns about a possible connection between the use of neonicotinoids and bee losses.
Researchers from the Universities of Wageningen, Ghent and Amsterdam have come to a different conclusion: A recently published review has, for the first time, summarized 15 years of research on the hazards of neonicotinoids to bees. The conclusion: While many laboratory studies described sublethal effects, no adverse effects to bee colonies were ever observed in field studies at field-realistic exposure conditions.
These findings are in line with many large-scale, multifactorial studies that were undertaken in the USA, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France and Germany. These have shown that poor bee health is correlated with the presence of the Varroa mite, viruses and many other factors, but not with the use of insecticides.
Laboratory research focuses on the response of individual bees to different pesticide application rates – including deliberate overexposure. Such research is useful for product evaluation, but results do not imply that they are transferable to “real world” field exposure conditions. Thus, care must be taken to draw the right conclusions from the findings of laboratory studies.