Reports and statements Environment

Neonicotinoids and their substitutes in sustainable pest control

Since restrictions on three neonicotinoids were introduced in 2018 in the European Union (EU), other insecticides with similar modes of action have entered the EU market, raising concerns that they may pose similar risks to honeybees and other non-target species.
Debate is underway on the sustainable use of pesticides, on how to evaluate the environmental risk of existing and new pesticides, and on adapting regulations with the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork, and Biodiversity strategies.

Latest evidence

The report summarises the results of research in recent years and strengthens earlier conclusions in EASAC’s 2015 review on the wider ecosystem effects of neonicotinoids. This supports the continuation of existing restrictions and of measures to minimise future use—especially to mitigate the threat to future food security from the continued decline in insects (including pollinators).

An ever-faster race towards new toxins

The restrictions on the original neonicotinoids created incentives to develop neonicotinoid substitutes that exploit the same insect neural mechanisms. With similar mechanisms, there is a risk that they will become ‘regrettable substitutions’ whose impacts turn out to be similar to, or worse than, the neonicotinoids they are designed to replace. Caution is thus needed in evaluating new molecules that inhibit nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and it should be assumed that similar broad ecosystem effects may occur unless applicants demonstrate otherwise when applying for regulatory approval.

Integrated Pest Management not in conflict with food security

Ultimately, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) needs to become the mainstream approach if the objectives of the Green Deal are to be met. Evidence that IPM is not in conflict with food security is thus critical in persuading Member States to support the Commission’s proposals, especially following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the latter context, in reducing the need for chemical fertilisers and plant protection products, IPM could improve agriculture’s resistance to such supply shocks.

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