Bayer on neonicotinoid ban: a sad day for farmers and a bad deal for Europe
Bayer responds to the EU's decision to support further restrictions of neonicotinoids (the pesticides controversially blamed for harming pollinators such as bees).
A decision by the EU Member States to restrict the use of certain neonicotinoids to applications in permanent greenhouses is a bad deal for the European agricultural sector and the environment, and one that will not improve the lot of bees or other pollinators. The decision will further reduce European farmers' ability to tackle important pests, for many of which there are no alternative treatments available.
Bayer remains convinced that the restrictions are not warranted, because neonicotinoids are safe when used in accordance with the label instructions. Even under the extremely conservative evaluation criteria of the European Food Safety Authority EFSA, the most recent bee risk assessment reports did not find high risks for many neonicotinoid uses where a definitive risk conclusion could be drawn; in those cases, only low risks were found for honey bees, and for wild bees the risk was also found to be low in the majority of cases.
Bayer is surprised that, once again, legislative measures are being implemented without a prior thorough impact assessment. Beyond the costs for European farmers, the restrictions in place have already brought considerable unintended consequences: a lack of alternative solutions; more spray applications, leading to more CO2 emissions; an increased risk of resistant pest insects; and a return to older, less-effective chemicals.
Numerous recent studies, inter alia by the Joint Resource Centre of the European Commission (2), have highlighted the impact of these restrictions. As it currently stands, the European crop protection industry will not be able to offer any registered seed treatments or soil-applied insecticides that could replace the current use patterns of imidacloprid and clothianidin.
It is also puzzling that Member States were asked to take a decision at this time, since the verdict of the ongoing court case (scrutinizing the legal basis of the 2013 restrictions) has not yet been delivered; this is due on 17 May. A reversal of the current restrictions could have profound implications for the legal justification of the new proposals.
Finally, the restrictions are intended to address the alleged risks the substances pose to bee health. Bayer cares about bees. They are essential for the pollination of many arable crops. But there are other, better ways to support pollinator health - such as increasing pollinator foraging options or natural habitats and more efficient control of the varroa mite - than banning substances that have helped farmers effectively manage a broad range of significant pests.
As a leading agriculture company that has a vested stake in pollinator health, Bayer has been working with partners around the globe on efforts to improve habitat and nutrition, better understand the science behind pollinator health, and improve stewardship and farmer / beekeeper communication.