Neonicotinoids and their substitutes in sustainable pest control – new EASAC publication

easac neocorticoids report cover

The European Commission proposed a new Regulation on the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) that will seek to better apply integrated pest management (IPM) and reduce pesticide use and risk. It is part of the Farm to Fork Strategy to reduce environmental impact of agricultural land.

In this report, the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) reviews recent research into the effects of neonicotinoids and assesses its implications for the current policy debate. The policy proposals are especially important because current climate trends may lead to greater pesticide use with associated health and environmental damage risks, increased pesticide resistance and accumulation of persistent pesticides.

An ever-faster race towards new toxins
The restrictions on the original neonicotinoids created incentives to develop neonicotinoid substitutes that exploit the same insect neural mechanisms. With similar mechanisms, there is a risk that they will become ‘regrettable substitutions’ whose impacts turn out to be similar to, or worse than, the neonicotinoids they are designed to replace. Caution is thus needed in evaluating new molecules that inhibit nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and it should be assumed that similar broad ecosystem effects may occur unless applicants demonstrate otherwise when applying for regulatory approval.

Integrated Pest Management not in conflict with food security
Ultimately, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) needs to become the mainstream approach if the objectives of the Green Deal are to be met. Evidence that IPM is not in conflict with food security is thus critical in persuading Member States to support the Commission’s proposals, especially following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the latter context, in reducing the need for chemical fertilisers and plant protection products, IPM could improve agriculture’s resistance to such supply shocks.

Source and report download

Press release text

EASAC is the European Academies' Science Advisory Council. It brings together the National Academies of Science of the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland and United Kingdom to provide independent science-based advice on important challenges for Europe.