Nav: Home

Global scientific review reveals effective alternatives to neonicotinoid and fipronil insecticides

February 26, 2018

Use of controversial neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics") in agriculture is not as effective as once thought, and can be replaced by advantageous pest-management alternatives, according to a study1 published today in the Springer journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

This latest publication of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides reviews 200 studies to assess mass use of systemic insecticides in agriculture, focusing on their effects on crop yields and the development of pest resistance to these compounds after two decades. While neonics were first brought into use in 1991, documented resistance to them dates as far back as 1996. The authors identify a diverse range of alternative pest-management strategies available for large-scale crop production, concluding that a new framework is needed for a truly sustainable agricultural model that relies mainly on natural ecosystem services instead of highly toxic chemicals.

"Over-reliance on systemic insecticides for pest control is inflicting serious damage to the environmental services that underpin agricultural productivity," said Task Force co-chair and scientist at France's National Scientific Research Centre Jean-Marc Bonmatin. "This new research is exciting because it's proven the existence and feasibility of a number of alternative, integrated pest management models -- which are far better for the environment without increasing costs or risks for farmers."

Neonicotinoids and the phenylpyrazole fipronil are the world's most sold systemic insecticides. They are routinely used in agriculture as seed treatments even where there is no relevant pest threat. After two decades of extensive neonics use, studies2 show these pesticides can have disastrous effects on biodiversity and ecosystems, including harm to pollinators.

"Insecticides are expected to achieve higher yields and net incomes, but this certainly is not always the case," Bonmatin said. "The overwhelming evidence of negative effects on pollinators and arthropods needs to be weighed against the pest control benefits these systemic insecticides are supposed to produce."

Today's report cites many alternative integrated pest-management approaches that can be implemented in combination: at the landscape level (e.g., ecological corridors), by using better farming methods (e.g., crop rotation, resistant crop varieties), by taking advantage of biocontrol (e.g., predators and parasitoids) and through other means (e.g., traps, naturally derived insecticides).

The study also details results of an innovative insurance system that protects farmers against undue financial risks without causing environmental harm. Through a "mutual fund" insurance model piloted in Italy, a collective of farmers manages a mutual fund stock, creating compensation through an interregional distribution of risks. Compensation is commensurate with the financial resources of the fund, which covers risks that private insurance companies currently do not, including climatic adversities such as flooding and damage by wild animals and pests.

"Crop insurance programs can be tailored to reduce the financial risk to farmers from potential pest infestations without the environmental costs of insecticide use," Bonmatin said. "And on a cost-recovery basis, insurance premiums are far cheaper than insecticides, so farmers' net incomes rise, too. It's a win-win approach for farmers and the environment."

The European Union is expected to vote soon on a proposal to expand its 2013 moratorium to cover most uses of neonics. France will phase-out all neonics next September. Canada is proposing to phase-out all agricultural uses of the neonic imidacloprid, with a final decision expected in December.

Separately, Canada has also proposed to cancel some uses of other neonics (clothianadin and thiamethoxam), but would continue to permit their main use as seed treatments.

"Regulators need to realize that if we want sustainable agricultural practices, we need a more restrictive regulatory framework and programs to support farmers making the switch," Bonmatin said. "Our findings on the availability of alternatives will be particularly relevant where new restrictions on neonics are being considered."
-end-
References:

1. Furlan, L. et al (2018) An update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) on systemic insecticides. Part 3: alternatives to systemic insecticides, Environmental Science and Pollution Research DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-1052-5

2. Pisa, L. et al (2017) An update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) on systemic insecticides. Part 2: impacts on organisms and ecosystems, Environmental Science and Pollution Research DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-0341-3

Further Information

About Environmental Science and Pollution Research

About the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides http://www.tfsp.info/

Study contacts

Faisal Moola, Task Force on Systemic Pesticides / University of Guelph | fmoola@uoguelph.ca | 647-281-5279

Springer

Related Pesticides Articles:

Pesticides increase the risk of schistosomiasis, a tropical disease
Schistosomiasis is a severe infectious disease caused by parasitic worms.
Wasps' gut microbes help them -- and their offspring -- survive pesticides
Exposure to the widely used pesticide atrazine leads to heritable changes in the gut microbiome of wasps, finds a study publishing Feb.
A proposal to change environmental risk assessment for pesticides
Despite regulatory frameworks designed to prevent environmental damage, pesticide use is still linked to declines in insects, birds and aquatic species, an outcome that raises questions about the efficacy of current regulatory procedures.
SDHI pesticides are toxic for human cells
French scientists led by a CNRS researcher have just revealed that eight succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor pesticide molecules do not just inhibit the SDH activity of fungi, but can also block that of earthworms, bees, and human cells in varying proportions.
Pesticides deliver a one-two punch to honey bees
A new paper in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry reveals that adjuvants, chemicals commonly added to pesticides, amplify toxicity affecting mortality rates, flight intensity, colony intensity, and pupae development in honey bees.
Hypertension found in children exposed to flower pesticides
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found higher blood pressure and pesticide exposures in children associated with a heightened pesticide spraying period around the Mother's Day flower harvest.
Banned pesticides in Europe's rivers
Tests of Europe's rivers and canals have revealed more than 100 pesticides -- including 24 that are not licensed for use in the EU.
The persistence of pesticides threatens European soils
A study developed by researchers from the Diverfarming project finds pesticide residues in the soils of eleven European countries in six different cropping systems
Honeybees at risk from Zika pesticides
Up to 13 percent of US beekeepers are in danger of losing their colonies due to pesticides sprayed to contain the Zika virus, new research suggests.
Alternatives to pesticides -- Researchers suggest popular weeds
Research proves that extracts from S. nigrum and D. stramonium, globally existing weed species, may help to protect crop systems against agricultural pests.
More Pesticides News and Pesticides Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.