In March 2011, an international task force was set up under the IUCN Species Survival Commission and the Commission on Ecosystem Management to bring together the scientific evidence needed to underpin action on neonicotinoid pesticides, the most prominent of the systemic pesticides currently used to "protect" more than 140 different crops and sold in 120 countries. Neonicotinoid pesticides have rapidly grown to become the most widely used group of insecticides globally, with a marketshare of 25%. Suspected by some scientists of being the cause of the worldwide decline of honey bees and wild pollinators, neonicotinoids are a set of nicotine-based systemic insecticides, differing from conventional spray products in that they also can be used as either seed dressings or as soil treatments and as a result they are dispersed into plant tissues, as well as washed into aquatic habitats through runoff. Their high persistency in soil and water results in a sustained (chronic) exposure of non-target organisms such as invertebrates to harmful concentrations. Neonicotinoids are neurotoxins that act on invertebrates’ information processing by affecting a specific neural pathway that is more common in invertebrates than other animal groups, making them popular very broad spectrum insecticides.

 

Challenges

• Neonics rapidly became the most widely used and fastest growing insecticides world wide (>25% share).
• Highly persistent and unprecedentedly toxic to essential invertebrates (a.o.
pollinators, earthworms).
• 80% of world’s flowering plants needs pollinators.
• Strong industry lobby extends over scientific arena to keep neonics on market.

Successes

Correlation demonstrated between neonics in surface water and decreased Diptera abundance in Netherlands.
• Soil and water samples taken in the major remaining breeding area of the
Blacktailed Godwit in NL.
• Former IUCN President Dr. Ashok Khosla supported the statement IUCN and the global problem related to the use of systemic pesticides, leading to support from the Triodos Foundation.

Next Goals

• Identifying financial support for the Task Force.
• A meta-analysis of scientific evidence of the impacts of the rapidly growing use of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystem services with a focus on pollinators and other non-target species.
• Publication of three related scientific journal articles.
• A worldwide information campaign and identification of alternative pest control for changing policies and preventing inadequate risk assessments in the future.