Martin Gruss

Neonics to Be Banned in Europe?

Just recently one of my friends in Berlin mentioned an article he’d read in an online newspaper that ‘Europe (was) poised for total ban on bee-killing pesticides’. He asked me if it was true. So I checked the facts and told him what’s really going on.

The correct status quo

The background is complicated but over-simplification doesn’t help anybody since the EU’s legal processes are complex. The decision by the European Commission (EC) to restrict the use of three seed-applied neonicotinoids from 2013 onwards triggered different regulatory processes. Now we know that the restricted uses will be re-evaluated in November 2017. Besides that, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published reports on the foliar use of those three neonicotinoids in July 2015 and confirmatory data reports for the two Bayer neonicotinoids Imidacloprid and Clothianidin in November 2016. The EC is currently reviewing these EFSA reports ready for discussion with the EU Member States. The EC is indeed proposing a broad ban on these two neonicotinoids by only authorizing their use as insecticides in permanent greenhouses where a crop stays there all its life. But these are just proposals. No decision has been taken yet and can only be taken in mid-May at the earliest. If a qualified majority were to pass such a broad ban, it wouldn’t become effective before late this year. I told my friend the newspaper headline was an eye-catching exaggeration.

Martin Gruss
Martin Gruss
Martin Gruss,
Global Head SeedGrowth at Bayer Division Crop Science 

Why EFSA is wrong

Bayer does not agree with the EFSA’s risk assessment for the current uses of Imidacloprid and Clothianidin. Their risk assessment was based on the so-called Bee Guidance Document, which still lacks the legally required approval by EU Member States and has therefore not been adopted. That means it is not applicable for regulatory purposes in the EU! I can’t go into great detail about this Bee Guidance Document here, but I must point out that if applied consistently, its approach would result in a denial of registration for most pesticides, even those used in organic agriculture! If this came about, the impact on food production for the growing global population would, in my opinion, be really bad.

Martin Gruss - Neonics to Be Banned in Europe? The EU’s neonicotinoid restrictions have cost farmers in Europe a fortune.
Martin Gruss - Neonics to Be Banned in Europe? The EU’s neonicotinoid restrictions have cost farmers in Europe a fortune.
The EU’s neonicotinoid restrictions have cost farmers in Europe a fortune.

What we say

Our position at Bayer is quite clear. Neonicotinoids are safe when used responsibly and in accordance with label instructions. In 20 years of intensive and critical research on neonicotinoids there hasn’t been a single study that was able to show a negative impact on honey bee colony health when neonicotinoids were tested under realistic field conditions and practical application scenarios. What’s more, the EU’s neonicotinoid restrictions have not led to any measurable improvement in bee health – but have cost European farmers a fortune. A recent study published by HFFA Research, an independent research organization, estimated that the current ban is costing European oilseed rape farmers alone almost €900 million a year! This is just one of the reasons why my colleagues at Bayer are fighting the proposed broad ban on neonicotinoids in Europe!

If you want to learn more about SeedGrowth – and seed-applied neonicotinoids – click here.

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