Real impact of neonicotinoid seed dressings stays buried

Science on the Land

A temporary European ban on three insect-killing chemicals called neonicotinoids has been in force since December 2013. These neonics are called clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. They’re used as seed dressings and soil treatments, among other things.

Just after this ban came into force, Peter Crosskey at the Agricultural and Rural Convention reminded us that the neonic ban allows exemptions for certain crops which weren’t considered a likely risk to bees and other pollinators. That is, for crops sown in autumn when pollinating insects aren’t active.

The ban says, ‘Uses as seed treatment or soil treatment shall not be authorised for the following cereals, when such cereals are sown from January to June: barley, millet, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, triticale, wheat.’

In other words, European farmers can use neonics between July and December. Oh that’s all right then. Mr Crosskey points out that neonics persist in soil, with half-lives (the…

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