Honeybees have been at the forefront of concern about neonics and fipronil to date and limited actions have been taken, for example, by the EU Commission, but manufacturers of these neurotoxicants have refuted any claims of harm. In reviewing all the available literature rather than simply comparing one report with another, the WIA has found that field-realistic concentrations of neonics adversely affect individual navigation, learning, food collection, longevity, resistance to disease and fecundity of bees. For bumblebees, irrefutable colony-level effects have been found, with exposed colonies growing more slowly and producing significantly fewer queens.
The authors strongly suggest that regulatory agencies apply more precautionary principles and further tighten regulations on neonicotinoids and fipronil, and start planning for a global phase-out or at least start formulating plans for a strong reduction of the global scale of use.
The full WIA will be published in the Springer Journal within the next few weeks.
Unlike other pesticides, which remain on the surface of the treated foliage, systemic pesticides are taken up by the plant and transported to all the tissues (leaves, flowers, roots and stems, as well as pollen and nectar). They are increasingly used as a prophylactic to prevent pests rather than to treat a problem once it has occurred.
The metabolites of neonics and fipronil (the compounds which they break down into) are often as or more toxic than the active ingredients to non-target organisms. Both parent compound and some of their metabolites are able to persist and environmental concentrations can build up, particularly in soil, over months or years. This increases their toxicity effects and makes them more damaging to non-target species.
Task Force on Systemic Pesticides
The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides is the response of the scientific community to concern around the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystems. Its intention is to provide the definitive view of science to inform more rapid and improved decision-making.
It advises two IUCN Commissions, the Commission on Ecosystem Management and the Species Survival Commission. Its work has been noted by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and was brought to the attention of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – on which four members of the Task Force serve - in the context of the fast-track thematic assessment of pollinators, pollination and food production. For more information, visit www.tfsp.info.