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Improving pesticide-use data for the EU

Authors:
  • Newcastle University and Benbrook Consulting Services (BCS)

Abstract

To the Editor — Access to pesticide-use data is essential to accurately evaluate the adverse effects of pesticides on human and ecosystem health. In Europe, applicators are usually required to record the location and date of pesticide applications1. A subset of these data is periodically sampled to produce heavily aggregated estimates of pesticide use, with spatial data reported to a national level. By contrast, in California all the data from applicators is reported in an openly accessible and highly temporally and spatially granular database2. The Californian approach has enabled the location of endangered species exposed to spray drift3, the monitoring of surface water pollution4, the determination of honeybee pesticide exposure5 and the identification of health effects from residential exposures to pesticides6. Such analyses are not possible within the European Union. ... The regulatory regime in the EU has demonstrated a willingness to allow academic findings to play decisive roles in the approval process of pesticides, as evidenced by the ban on three neonicotinoids after academics raised concerns about their effects on pollinators10,11. Access to high-quality pesticide-use data will help inform pesticide regulation and provide greater transparency12. Improving the tracking of pesticide use would facilitate the European Green Deal objective of reducing pesticide use 50% by 2030 and promote a move towards a more sustainable agri-food system.
Mesnage , R. Straw, E.A., Antoniou, M.N. Benbrook, C. Brown, M.J.F., Chauzat, M-J., Finger, R.,
Goulson, D., Leadbeater, E., López-Ballesteros, A., Möhring, N., Neumann, P., Stanley, D., Stout, J.C.,
Thompson, L.J., Topping, C.J., White, B., Zaller, J.G., Zioga, E. (2021). Improving pesticide-use data for
the EU. Nature Ecology & Evolution (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01574-1
You can access the article free here: https://rdcu.be/czv1g
... Given this, studies of interactions between stressors need to incorporate a more balanced approach, which recognizes the potential importance of other agrochemicals (Straw et al., 2022). This, in turn, requires a knowledge of the extent to which wild bees are exposed to these other agrochemical stressors, as without this, experiments cannot assess real-world hazard or risk (Mesnage et al., 2021;Straw et al., 2022). Of the ~20,400 species of wild bees, actual exposure to any agrochemical has only been investigated for a handful of species (mainly from the genera Bombus, Osmia, Megachile, or Melipona), and this is a major lacuna that urgently needs to be filled. ...
... Among the many pitfalls of laboratory experiments in addressing pesticide-pathogen interactions are importantly unrealistic or irrelevant concentrations of pesticides used (Carreck and Ratnieks, 2014). To avoid this pitfall, knowledge of the extent to which wild bees are exposed to the studied pesticide(s) is essential (Mesnage et al., 2021;Sanchez-bayo and Goka, 2014). However, such data are currently largely lacking for many pesticides and exposure scenarios for different wild bee species (Kopit and Pitts-Singer, 2018;Main et al., 2020). ...
... However, such data are currently largely lacking for many pesticides and exposure scenarios for different wild bee species (Kopit and Pitts-Singer, 2018;Main et al., 2020). But experiments cannot assess real-world risks of pesticides and their interactive effects with pathogens on wild bees without such data (EFSA, 2014b;Mesnage et al., 2021;Sgolastra et al., 2020Sgolastra et al., , 2019. Similarly, laboratory studies testing effects and underlying mechanisms of interactions between pesticides and pathogens should ensure realistic infection scenarios and pathogen loads for different wild bee species. ...
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There is clear evidence for wild insect declines globally. Habitat loss, climate change, pests, pathogens and environmental pollution have all been shown to cause detrimental effects on insects. However, interactive effects between these stressors may be the key to understanding reported declines. Here, we review the literature on pesticide and pathogen interactions for wild bees, identify knowledge gaps, and suggest avenues for future research fostering mitigation of the observed declines. The limited studies available suggest that effects of pesticides most likely override effects of pathogens. Bees feeding on flowers and building sheltered nests, are likely less adapted to toxins compared to other insects, which potential susceptibility is enhanced by the reduced number of genes encoding detoxifying enzymes compared with other insect species. However, to date all 10 studies using a fully-crossed design have been conducted in the laboratory on social bees using Crithidia spp. or Nosema spp., identifying an urgent need to test solitary bees and other pathogens. Similarly, since laboratory studies do not necessarily reflect field conditions, semi-field and field studies are essential if we are to understand these interactions and their potential effects in the real-world. In conclusion, there is a clear need for empirical (semi-)field studies on a range of pesticides, pathogens, and insect species to better understand the pathways and mechanisms underlying their potential interactions, in particular their relevance for insect fitness and population dynamics. Such data are indispensable to drive forward robust modelling of interactive effects in different environmental settings and foster predictive science. This will enable pesticide and pathogen interactions to be put into the context of other stressors more broadly, evaluating their relative importance in driving the observed declines of wild bees and other insects. Ultimately, this will enable the development of more effective mitigation measures to protect bees and the ecosystem services they supply.
... The toxic load approach shows the potential risk of acute poisoning instead of actual exposure or fatalities. The use of nationwide sales data provides only a rough estimate of toxicological exposure, and certainly fieldspecific, spatially referenced use data would provide a more accurate risk assessment [150]. Since professional applicators are legally required to keep record of all pesticides used, date of application, area and crops treated, these data could be centrally collected, anonymized, and made openly available to improve transparency and facilitate future research [150]. ...
... The use of nationwide sales data provides only a rough estimate of toxicological exposure, and certainly fieldspecific, spatially referenced use data would provide a more accurate risk assessment [150]. Since professional applicators are legally required to keep record of all pesticides used, date of application, area and crops treated, these data could be centrally collected, anonymized, and made openly available to improve transparency and facilitate future research [150]. ...
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... There are no comprehensive figures for global 'inert' use, as California is the only regulatory zone to accurately record their application [8,9], but they are known to be heavily used globally. According to the United States (US) federal Environmental Protection Agency, there are around 4000 'inert' ingredients in use in the US [10]. ...
Article
Agrochemical formulations are composed of two broad groups of chemicals: active ingredients, which confer pest control action, and ‘inert’ ingredients, which facilitate the action of the active ingredient. Most research into the effects of agrochemicals focusses on the effects of active ingredients. This reflects the assumption that ‘inert’ ingredients are non-toxic. A review of relevant research shows that for bees, this assumption is without empirical foundation. After conducting a systematic literature search, we found just 19 studies that tested the effects of ‘inert’ ingredients on bee health. In these studies, ‘inert’ ingredients were found to cause mortality in bees through multiple exposure routes, act synergistically with other stressors and cause colony level effects. This lack of research is compounded by a lack of diversity in study organism used. We argue that ‘inert’ ingredients have distinct, and poorly understood, ecological persistency profiles and toxicities, making research into their individual effects necessary. We highlight the lack of mitigation in place to protect bees from ‘inert’ ingredients and argue that research efforts should be redistributed to address the knowledge gap identified here. If so-called ‘inert’ ingredients are, in fact, detrimental to bee health, their potential role in widespread bee declines needs urgent assessment.
... This calculation does not consider the foreseen increase in organically managed area and the potential increase of diseases due to climate change or the introduction of new plant pathogens. Verification of copper use data is not straight-forward, since there is a substantial lack of statistics on active substance use in general (Mesnage et al., 2021) and, correspondingly, also regarding copper use. At least for Germany and Switzerland, plausibility checks can be performed. ...
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... However, leveraging studies on a larger scale requires long-term, precise data on farmers' decisions and their economic, environmental, and health impacts (Möhring et al., 2020;Tang et al., 2021). Especially the access to precise and reliable pesticide use data is currently limited by most authorities and therefore needs to be reformed in order to allow for a large-scale evaluation of pesticide use decisions under climate change (Mesnage et al., 2021). ...
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Eurostat. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. (2008).