The European Commission decided on Monday (13 January) not to renew the approval of the neonicotinoid pesticide thiacloprid, following scientific advice by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that the substance presents health and environmental concerns.
The insecticide, produced by the pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer, has therefore been effectively banned in the EU.
Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement that “there are environmental concerns related to the use of this pesticide, particularly its impact on groundwater, but also related to human health, in reproductive toxicity.”
Neonicotinoids, or ‘neonics’, are a controversial group of pesticides, in use since the 1990s. They are the most commonly used insecticides for many food and feed crops. Critics blame them for the detrimental impacts they have on bees and pollinators in general.
This is the fourth neonicotinoid out of five that were earlier approved for use in the EU for which restrictions of use or a ban have been adopted since 2013, the Commission said.
In April 2018, the EU agreed to fully ban the outdoor use of three other neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
However, several EU member states notified emergency exemptions regarding their use on their territory.
Utz Klages, a spokesperson for Bayer, told EURACTIV that although the company “continues to believe that thiacloprid-based crop protection products can be used safely when appropriate risk mitigation measures are applied” they “respect the decision of the EU Member States regarding the non-reapproval of thiacloprid.”
He added that Bayer’s thiacloprid-based crop protection products are an important tool for farmers across the EU, and especially for minor crops, and that insufficient chemical alternatives are available for numerous crop and pest combinations.
Martin Dermine, health and environment policy officer of PAN Europe, an NGO which works to eliminate dependency on chemical pesticides and support safe sustainable pest control methods, welcomed the ban, telling EURACTIV that thiacloprid is “toxic to pollinators and humans: as such it must have no place in the production of our food.”
However, he said he “regrets that it took so long for this decision to be reached by the Commission and member states.”
“It was in 2015 that the European Chemicals Agency classified thiacloprid as toxic to reproduction, which should have led to an immediate ban; yet, four years later, people and the environment are still exposed to this toxic substance. The case of thiacloprid is another example of the loose implementation of EU law to the benefit of the agrochemical industry.”
Dermine added that it will not be possible for the Commission to protect human health and biodiversity as long as such delays and improper implementation of the precautionary principle “continue to be structural features of the EU approval procedure.”
Nick Mole, a policy officer at PAN UK, added that the decision “clearly highlights the need for tighter regulations around the approval of pesticides that present a threat to biodiversity or human health.”
He said that “this substance should never have been approved in the first place.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]