0 Scientists call for 'evidence-driven' neonicotinoid debate

An international panel of scientists has called for an "evidence-driven debate" over whether a widely used type of insecticide is to blame for declines in bees and other insect pollinators.

EU restrictions on certain neonicotinoid insecticides was introduced in December 2013 because of fears they are harming pollinating insects. Pollination by insects is critical for many crops and for wild plants but at the same time neonicotinoids are one of the most effective insecticides used by farmers.

Potential tensions relating to the the agricultural and environmental consequences of neonicotinoid use have made this topic one of the most controversial involving science and policy.

The EU Commission went ahead with planned restrictive measures on three types of neonicotinoid in December. The decision was supported by the majority of EU Member states, though the UK government has refused to back the latest developments in neonicotinoid science and limited itself to implementing the mandatory aspects of the ban, leaving out certain recommended measures.

Earlier this month the neonicotinoid debate was catapulted back into the headlines when a study by Harvard researchers added further weight to arguments that neonicotinoids are having a detrimental effect on pollinator health.

A restatement of the scientific evidence on neonicotinoids was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday (21 May).

The restatement, from a group of nine scientists led by Professor Charles Godfray and Professor Angela McLean of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, attempts to "clarify the scientific evidence available on neonicotinoids, to enable different stakeholders to develop coherent policy and practice recommendations."

One of the authors, Professor Lin Field from Rothamsted Research, said, "It was a pleasure to work with my co-authors who all have diverse expertises, relevant to the debate over the potential effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators, but all wanted to look at evidence rather than opinion.

It is essential that we base decisions in this important area on science, so that we find the best way forward to ensure both pollinator success and good crop protection strategies for food production."

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