The past 27 April EU vote yes to ban all use outdoors of three neonicotinoid insecticides: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. This ban for plant protection use will enter into force by the end of 2018.
Bees and other insects are vital for global food production (they pollinate three-quarters of all crops). Neonicotinoids are nerve agents, and have been demonstrate to cause a wide range of harm to individual bees, like damaging memory and reducing queen numbers. Furthermore, the numbers of pollinators has fallen rapidly in recent years due to, in part, the widespread use of pesticides.
In 2013, the EU imposed a partial ban on these three insecticides, which applied to crops such as maize, sunflower, wheat and others. Moreover, it covered uses in orchards before fruit trees have flowered. However, farmers could apply neonicotinoids to crops harvested before flowering or not considered as attractive to bees.
In March 2017, a near-total ban was proposed by the Commission, basing it in an EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) analysis of studies commissioned by neonicotinoid producers. This revealed that all uses of the three neonicotinoids as seed coating or granules either posed a high risk to bees, or that a high risk was possible, as the EFSA concluded in 2016. The Commission said that the outdoor usage can no longer be considered safe. For doing the vote to ban these three neonicotinoids, EU waited to EFSA published the evaluation, what was/were made public in 28 February 2018. After doing the vote, the ban was approved.
On the other hand, the use of the three neonicotinoids is still allowed in permanent greenhouses, due to the Commission considers that there is no risk, because, as they say, in permanent greenhouses the exposure of bees is not expected.
Now, some experts are worried that the exemption for greenhouses means neonicotinoids will be washed out into water courses, where they can severely harm aquatic life.