EU food agency links fourth pesticide to bee decline

EU must act on mounting evidence of pesticide harm and develop plan to save bees, Greenpeace

Press release - May 27, 2013
Brussels – In the latest scientific warning against the impacts of common pesticides on bees, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has today released a scientific assessment linking a pesticide known as fipronil to harmful effects on bees. Three other bee-harming pesticides have been partially banned in Europe following similar damning reports from EFSA published in January.

Honeybees Mortality in the Netherlands


EFSA concluded that fipronil, produced by German chemical company BASF, poses a “high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize” [1]. EFSA’s assessment also identified large information gaps in scientific studies, preventing it from assessing risks to pollinators other than honey bees and dangers from exposure to residues of the chemical (for example in soil and non-targeted plants). Given the information available, EFSA found lower risk levels for fipronil use on some vegetables.

In light of the evidence, Greenpeace is calling on the EU to ban fipronil and to develop a comprehensive plan to tackle the collapse in bee populations in Europe.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: “The fact that fipronil and other pesticides toxic to bees were authorised at all shows that EU safety testing is in dire need of an overhaul. These pesticides have been building up in our environment for a decade, so limited, temporary bans won’t be enough to give bees a breather, particularly while other similar chemicals are still being used. The Commission should develop a comprehensive plan for the protection of insect pollinators, starting with a solid ban on fipronil and other bee-harming substances.”

Last month, a majority of EU countries backed a two-year partial ban of three other pesticides, classified as neonicotinoids, which EFSA said were causing harm to bees [2]. On 24 May, the European Commission formally enacted the ban, which will take effect in December 2013 [3]. Greenpeace’s recent report on the chemical threats facing bees in Europe, Bees in Decline, shows the effect that the three neonicotinoids, and four other common pesticides, including fipronil (which is not itself a neonicotinoid), are having on the health of pollinators [4].

While an important first step, the partial ban of the three neonicotinoids - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – is insufficient to help Europe’s pollinators stage a recovery. The EU should spearhead further research into the connections between Europe’s most widely used pesticides and the decline of pollinators, and shift funding from the current chemical-intensive agricultural system to modern ecological farming practices.

Bees and other pollinators play a crucial role in food production. Around a third of the world’s food crops directly depend on natural pollination from bees and other animals [5].



[1] EFSA assesses risks to bees from fipronil:

[2] Greenpeace, Majority of EU countries support partial ban of bee-killing pesticides, 29 April 2013:

[3] Bee Health: EU-wide restrictions on Pesticide use to enter into force on 1 December, 24 May 2013:

[4] Bees in Decline, (March 2013) Greenpeace Research Laboratories technical report:

[5] Kremen C, et al (2007), Pollination and other ecosystem services produced by mobile organisms: a conceptual framework for the effects of land-use change, Ecology Letters, 10: 299-314.

Marco Contiero - Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director: +32 (0) 477 777 034,

Ed Davitt - Greenpeace media officer: +32 (0)476 988 584,

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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.