NYT: European Agency Warns of Risk to Humans in Pesticides Tied to Bee Deaths


Published: December 17, 2013

LONDON — European food regulators said on Tuesday that a class of pesticides linked to the deaths of large numbers of honey bees might also harm human health, and they recommended that the European Commission further restrict their use.

Bees killed by pesticide effects

Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Dead bees in an anti-pesticide demonstration in Bulgaria. All neonicotinoid pesticides could be affected by Europe’s stance.

The commission, which requested the review, has already taken a tougher stance than regulators in other parts of the world against neonicotinoids, a relatively new nicotine-derived class of pesticide. Earlier this year, some were temporarily banned for use on many flowering crops in Europe that attract honey bees, an action that the pesticides’ makers are opposing in court.

Now European Union regulators say the same class of pesticides “may affect the developing human nervous system” of children. They focused on two specific versions of the pesticide, acetamiprid and imidacloprid, saying they were safe to use only in smaller amounts than currently allowed. Imidacloprid was one of the pesticides placed under a two-year ban this year.

The review was prompted by a Japanese study that raised similar concerns last year.

Imidacloprid is one of the most popular insecticides, and is used in agricultural and consumer products. It was developed by Bayer, the German chemicals giant, and is the active ingredient in products like Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control, which can be purchased at stores internationally, including Home Depot in the United States.

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