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Colony Collapse Disorder: European Bans on Neonicotinoid Pesticides

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the nenicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.

The Commission's action was in response to the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) scientific report Exit EPA disclaimer, which identified "high acute risks" for bees as regards exposure to dust in several crops such as corn, cereals and sunflowers, to residues in pollen and nectar in crops like oilseed rape and sunflower and to guttation in corn.

Main elements of the Commission's proposal to Member States:

  1. The proposal would 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.
  2. The remaining authorized uses would be available only to professionals.
  3. Exceptions would be limited to the possibility of treating bee-attractive crops in greenhouses, in open-air fields only after flowering.
  4. The restrictions would apply beginning December 1, 2013.
  5. As soon as new information is available, at the latest within two years, the Commission would review the conditions of approval of the three neonicotinoids taking into account relevant scientific and technical developments.

Based on currently available data, the EPA's scientific conclusions are similar to those expressed in the EFSA report with regard to the potential for acute effects and uncertainty about chronic risk. However, the EFSA report does not address risk management, which, under U.S. federal law, is a key component of the EPA's pesticide regulatory scheme.

The EPA is not currently banning or severely restricting the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides. The neonicotinoid pesticides are currently being re-evaluated through registration review, the EPA's periodic re-evaluation of registered pesticides to ensure they meet current health and safety standards. The EPA bases its pesticide regulatory decisions on the entire body of scientific literature, including studies submitted by the registrant, journal articles and other sources of peer-reviewed data.

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