'No room for excuses'


23 March 2023
Scientists applaud EU pesticide regulation, but says Member States and industry should stop using loopholes.

EASAC, the European Academies Science Advisory Council, has hit out at countries using loopholes in EU pesticide regulations by continuing to allow the use of banned insecticides which have been used to control things like wireworm in potato crops. 

EASAC’s Environment Director, Prof Michael Norton, said some are using Russia's invasion of Ukraine as an excuse for the continued use, saying chemical-dependent agriculture is justified while there is a global threat to food security.

"There is plenty of evidence that proposed alternative methods can deliver the same or even better yields while maintaining nature’s ecosystem services,” he said.

EASAC’s review of the latest science confirms that the EU got it right when it banned the main three neonicotinoids (neonics) five years ago, as this class of insecticides has indiscriminate effects on pollinators and other beneficial insects as much as on the targeted pests.

Restrictions on the original neonics created incentives to develop substitutes that exploit the same insect neural mechanisms. EASAC's analysis identifies a long pipeline of potential future chemicals that test the limits of the regulatory approval system and could allow for the production and use of equally-damaging substitutions.

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Professor Edward Mitchell of the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland said: “It is counterproductive to kill everything, since once the pest adapts to the pesticide, there may be no natural enemies remaining, let alone essential pollinators. It is a similar problem to that we are seeing with the wide use of antibiotics.” 

The EASAC Report fully supports the European Commission’s efforts to make Integrated Pest Management (IPM) the primary route to sustainable agriculture, usinginformation on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. 

Low-risk pesticides can be based on bacteria, fungi, or substances such as limestone or pepper, for example. “Simply resorting to synthetic pesticides is old-fashioned thinking. Sometimes, just a swarm of ladybirds would do a much better job,” Michael Norton said. 

However, IPM does require strong support for grow ers to adapt and the report identifies steps to be taken for IPM to be welcomed by growers as their preferred approach. 

To read the full report, click here.  

Photo: rostichep