Imidacloprid, thiamenthoxam, clothianidin. They are neonicotinoid pesticides regularly employed by farmers, as they are stronger than any other antiparasitic. Their use has the extremely serious consequence of putting the bee population at risk of collapse. These insects can in fact come into contact with them either directly or flying above nearby fields, which might be contaminated by residues of the substances. If used in low quantity, these pesticides cause abnormal behaviours, like an inability to return to the beehive or to recognize the smell of flowers, but with a higher dosage the likelihood of death increases enormously. Besides, they are not harmful to bees only, but also to birds and other insects.
The dangerousness of the three neonicotinoids is confirmed by a study carried out by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), a review of a previous research from 2013, which was followed by a few restrictions, which have revealed themselves insufficient to stop the death toll of bees.
This is not only caused by neonicotinoids, but also by other factors compromising the ecosystem. Among these is climate change: shorter and warmer winters increase the load of their annual work and therefore their stress. And also the drought, which led to an 80% reduction in the production of honey in 2017.
Saving them is not only a question of caring about a species, but also worrying about a missing fundamental link in the food chain. Their work affects 75% of the whole agricultural production, and consequences for our food would be drastic.
For these reasons, the non-governmental organization Avaaz launched a campaign on the issue which, as indicated on their portal, appealed to UE state members, world leaders and Ministers of Health and Agriculture: “We ask you – we read in their petition – to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides immediately. The fast collapse of the colonies of bees constitutes a risk for our entire food chain. If you take urgent measures with precaution now, we could save bees from extinction.”
In fact, on the morning of 27th April, the European Commission debated about the ban of pesticides in agriculture: 12 countries had already expressed themselves in favour, only 4 were needed to trigger a serious change, with the hope of giving a good example to the rest of the world. UE state members supported the Commission’s request to put a stop to the use of the three neonicotinoids in open fields from the end of 2018, allowing them in greenhouses only.