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The neonicotinoid insecticide debate

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The neonicotinoid insecticide debate

Latest Update: Impact of neonicotinoid restriction for UK horticultural crops - FAQ doc updated

In the UK there are a number of authorisations for thiamethoxam and imidacloprid for use in horticultural crops (clothianidin is not approved on any horticultural crop in the UK).  The tables and FAQs in this document provide further information on how the restrictions will impact on these authorisations and should help growers interpret the restrictions which apply.

 

Updated Monday 3 March 2014

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Latest Update: Impact of neonicotinoid restriction on authorisations for UK horticultural crops

On Monday 29th April 2013, the European Commission’s Appeal Committee met to discuss the proposals to restrict authorisations of neonicotinoid insecticide products containing clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The proposals had previously resulted in ‘no opinion’ among Member States when they were put to a vote in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (Pesticides Legislation Section) on 15th March.

 

The Appeal Committee did not reach an ‘opinion’ (which would have required a qualified majority in favour or against), which means that the European Commission will now proceed to adopt the original proposals. These comprise:

 

  • the withdrawal of professional uses of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam on crops considered attractive to bees (a long list including oilseed rape and maize) and on cereals apart from seed treatment of winter cereals;
  • the complete withdrawal of amateur uses of these substances;
  • these two restrictions apply after 30 September, but there is a derogation for member States to apply a period of grace, allowing withdrawn uses to continue until 30th November 2013;
  • a prohibition of the sale and use of all seeds for those crops treated with the three active substances from 1st December 2013, other than for research and development;
  • exemptions to allow use on crops harvested before flowering (such as brassicas and onions), use in greenhouses and foliar applications after crops have flowered;
  • a commitment by the Commission to starting a review of further data to be supplied by companies two years after the Regulation comes into force.
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In the UK there are a number of authorisations for thiamethoxam and imidacloprid for use in horticultural crops (clothianidin is not approved on any horticultural crop in the UK).  The tables and FAQs in the document here provide further information on how the restrictions will impact on these authorisations.

 

Updated Friday 25 October 2013

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Latest Update: A good summary on the overall impact of the Neonicotinoid Regulation Changes on bee populations

http://www.researchresearch.com/index.php?option=com_news&template=rr_2col&view=article&articleId=1336394

Updated Friday 19 July

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Latest Update: Neonicotinoid Regulation changes - impact on growers

There are still uncertainties in terms of how the restriction on the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam neonicotinoid insecticides will impact on the horticultural sector. This is mainly due to the fact that parts of the regulation is open to interpretation by the individual Member States.

 

HDC is currently seeking clarification from CRD to help growers understand which horticultural uses will be impacted by the regulation. When information becomes available we will produce a briefing for levy payers which we will post on this page. In the meantime, if growers have particular concerns or areas of use where they would like clarification please contact HDC hdc@hdc.ahdb.org.uk

 

Updated Wednesday 12 June 2013

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Latest Update: The European Commission has now published the final Regulation regarding the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides. Regulation (EU) No 485/2013 will:

 

  • Restrict the use of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on bee attractive plants and cereals. In addition, the remaining authorised uses are available only to professionals.

 

  • Exceptions will be limited to the possibility to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses, in open-air fields only after flowering.

 

  • The restrictions will apply from 1 December 2013.

 

The Commission has confirmed that as soon as new information is available, and at the latest within 2 years, it will review the conditions of approval of the 3 neonicotinoids to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments. Click here for more information.

 

Updated Monday 3 June 2013

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Latest update:  EU vote paves way for two-year restriction on Neonicotinoid insecticides containing actives imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin

 

A vote in the EU (29 April 2013) has paved the way for the European Commission to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides containing the three actives – imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The Commission says it wants the restriction to apply from 1 December this year.

 

Fifteen countries voted in favour – not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now impose a two-year restriction on the three actives. The UK did not support this – it argued that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four abstained.

 

The Commission will now draft the text for the EU-wide restriction, which is expected to be published in the next few weeks. The main elements of the Commission's proposal to Member States are:

  • The proposal restricts the use of 3 neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on crops attractive to bees, including cereals
  • In addition, the remaining authorised uses are available only to professionals (ie approvals for amateur uses will be withdrawn)
  • Exceptions will be permitted; it will be possible to treat crops attractive to bees in glasshouses, or after flowering in open-field crops

 

The restrictions will apply from 1 December 2013. As soon as new information is available, and at the latest within 2 years, the Commission will review the conditions of approval of the 3 neonicotinoids to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments

 

The official UK reaction and a link to the draft regulation can be found on the Chemical Regulations Directorate (CRD) page of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website .

 

AHDB technical experts will issue further information on the implications of this decision once the full text of the proposal is known.

Updated Tuesday 30 April

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Latest update: The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee published its report on ‘Pollinators and Pesticides’ on 5 April 2013, which includes substantial discussion and a range of evidence on the neonicotinoid issue, as well as making wide-ranging recommendations.  This can obtained from The Stationery Office bookshop (www.tsoshop.co.uk).

(12 April) Major UK retailer Waitrose asks all its suppliers of fruit, vegetables and flowers to stop using neonicotinoid products containing the three actives – imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam – on crops attractive to bees and other pollinators by the end of 2014 at the latest .

Updated Wednesday 17 April 2013

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Latest update: Following the failure to reach a majority decision on Neonicotinoids at the March standing committee meeting, DG SANCO have proposed an appeals committee meeting on 26th April or 2nd May, where members states will reconsider the text voted on during the March meeting, which discusses a 2-year suspension for all types of use for Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam, with a few exemptions: products used in glasshouses, foliar application after the flowering period and seed treatment for winter cereals. Crops harvested before flowering have been withdrawn from the list of attractive plants.

Updated Wednesday 9 April 2013

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Defra has released the findings of its assessment on Neonicotinoids and bees. The assessment concluded that whilst it cannot exclude rare effects of neonicotinoids on bees in the field, it suggests that effects on bees do not occur under normal circumstances. This assessment also suggests that laboratory based studies demonstrating sub-lethal effects on bees from neonicotinoids did not replicate realistic conditions, but extreme scenarios. Consequently, it supports the view that the risk to bee populations from neonicotinoids, as they are currently used, is low.

 

Click here to read the full report on the Defra website:

 

As it currently stands a proposal to restrict the use of neonicotinoids has not been approved at European level. We will update this page regularly to keep growers up to date with any developments.

(Updated Wednesday 27 March 2013)

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Background

 

Neonicotinoid insecticides account for about 20% of overall insecticide usage in the UK.  These can either be applied as seed treatments (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin) or as foliar sprays (thiacloprid, acetamiprid).  By far the majority of use (in terms of area treated) is on cereals and oilseed rape as seed treatments (currently over 90% of the neonicotinoid usage). There is also some seed treatment usage on crops such as sugar beet and linseed, and some foliar usage on arable crops such as oilseed rape and potato.  Horticultural uses – mainly accounted for by sprays of thiacloprid, and some specialist soil applications of imidacloprid to container-grown ornamentals  and hops – account for <6% of the total neonicotinoid treated area.  However, these products can be vital for certain horticultural crops.

 

Insect pollinator numbers in general are known to be in decline, and this is currently the subject of intensive research.  A linked issue is ‘colony collapse disorder’ (CCD) which has affected many honey bee populations in North America, but has not yet been recorded in the UK.  Concerns have been raised that the use of neonicotinoid products (particularly seed treatment products containing imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin) may be contributing to pollinator decline by having harmful effects on bees.  This is because the systemic nature of these products means that very low doses can pass through the plant and be found in pollen and nectar when crops flower.  Bees feeding on flowering crops carry pollen and nectar back to the colony where, the research suggests, the residues of the insecticides may have subtle effects on brood and queen production; some research has also suggested that foraging bees can become disorientated by low doses of neonicotinoids.  Although these effects have been demonstrated by a number of laboratory and semi-field studies reported in the academic press (as peer-reviewed scientific papers), the extent to which this may happen in the natural environment is unclear. These subtle ‘sub-lethal’ effects reported in published research need to be distinguished from some acute bee death incidences in a small number of European member states in recent years (e.g. in Germany and Slovenia) which were linked to excessive dust from neonicotinoid seed treatments contaminating flowering plants in field margins during the drilling of maize. This type of situation has not arisen in the UK, and is unlikely to arise due to different agronomic approaches to maize production here compared with elsewhere in Europe.

 

The recent academic research on the effects of neonicotinoids on bees has raised the question of whether restrictions should be placed on neonicotinoid use in the UK, particularly as some specific restrictions have been placed on neonicotinoid usage in some other European countries, notably France and Germany, on the basis of similar evidence.  These recent studies and the existing evidence have been assessed by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) of HSE; bee experts in Defra’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera); Defra’s Science Advisory Council; and the independent expert Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP). Parallel work has also been done by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who have recently published reviews of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam (it is likely that EFSA reviews of thiacloprid and acetamiprid will follow in due course).   In September, Defra issued a document which summarised their position. In essence, the decision was that although there was sufficient evidence to show that bees could be exposed to low doses of neonicotinoids, there was no evidence, as yet, of actual field effects.  However, further studies are underway to try and close that knowledge gap, and the results from these have been published on Defra’s website with Defra’s latest assessment of the evidence.  At present no decisions have been taken on any restrictions in the UK, but the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) has advised that a UK review of authorisations would be appropriate, and the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) announced this on 5 April 2013.

 

The issues surrounding neonicotinoid usage are of general public concern, and have been picked up by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), a Parliamentary Select Committee that considers the development and impact of government policies related to the environment. This enquiry into ‘Insects and Insecticides’ is on-going, and has taken evidence from many interested parties, including environmental groups, agrochemical companies, academics, the NFU, ACP, CRD and Defra ministers. The EAC published its report on 5 April. This makes a number of recommendations, including that ‘Defra should prepare to introduce a moratorium in the UK on the use of imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin by 1 January 2014, and support such a proposal in the EU’.  Waitrose, a major UK retailer, has also recently (April 2013) asked all its suppliers of fruit, vegetables and flowers to stop using neonicotinoid insecticides by the end of 2014.

 

The European & UK regulatory dimension

In parallel with the situation in the UK the European Union (EU) has also been considering the issue.  The European Commission (EC) has brought forward a proposal which calls for a two year ban (starting 1 July 2013) on the use of plant protection products containing clothianidin, thiamethoxam or imidacloprid on crops attractive to bees, except for uses in greenhouses, for the production of seeds and plant propagating materials and for winter cereals. In addition the use of the plant protection products containing clothianidin, thiamethoxam or imidacloprid should be limited to professional users only (i.e. amateur uses should be revoked). A full copy of the draft regulation, which includes details of crops defined as attractive to bees, can be found here. The proposed regulation does NOT currently cover uses of thiacloprid and acetamiprid, both widely used in horticultural crops. The proposed regulation was discussed by EU Member States (MS) at a meeting (14/15 March 2013) of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH), the European body that deals with pesticide regulatory issues. In a vote by MS, a ‘qualified majority’ vote in favour of the proposed regulation was NOT achieved so a decision on whether to implement it has currently been deferred. However, under current EU procedures, the EC has asked for their proposal to be considered via an appeals procedure, and the meeting to do this is expected in late April or early May. It is therefore still possible that the two year ban as currently defined in the draft proposed regulation will come into force on 1 July 2013.

Even if no decision is made at a European level (or if a decision is made to allow the continued use of the affected products), the UK would still be able to take unilateral action to restrict the use of neonicotinoid products if it were deemed necessary to take action to protect bee populations in the UK. 

In summary, at the time of writing (17 April 2013) the situation is extremely fluid and is characterised by a considerable amount of uncertainty both in general terms (i.e. whether regulatory action is actually going to be taken at an EU level, a UK level or not at all), and in specific terms (i.e. exactly what might any regulatory action comprise and what might this mean for growers).  This makes contingency planning very difficult.

HDC maintains a careful watching brief on this issue, but as we are not a lobbying organisation, we are restricting ourselves to providing factual and technical information to others including the NFU and CRD to help ensure that the policy debate is correctly informed about the needs of the horticultural industry.

 

Updated 17/04//13