Prohibition of neonicotinoids in Austria and possible consequences

Recently there has been a big debate about so called neonicotinoids, in particular the systemic insecticides Imidacloprid, Thiametoxam and Clothianidin, and their fatal consequences for the total European bee population. The bee population, however, is decreasing rapidly and up to now, scientists are still seeking for the reason. In my opinion, we are facing a multiple cause problem, whereby many factors are threatening the bees in Europe.

The above mentioned insecticides are just one reason for the problem. But this is just an indicator for a forwarding intensification of the agriculture in Europe. Diverse landscape elements and pastureland is being removed in order to intensify agricultural production. The new trend of crop production for bio fuels and biogas plants is additionally putting pressure on the land use system.

However, coming back to the situation in Austria, the Austrian minister of agriculture Nikolaus Berlakovich used this uncertainty as his argumentation base to vote against the prohibition for the use of neonicotinoids in the European Union. But as one takes a closer look on that issue, there could be more behind it. Neonicotinoids are strongly used in maize and canola production, where multiple applying over the vegetation period is common. In conventional agriculture, these systemic insecticides are of great importance in order to keep the yields high. In Austria, there are some regions where maize and canola are the main crops and there is a strong lobby behind it. The prohibition of these systemic insecticides would therefore threaten the livelihood system of many Austrian farmers. This consideration could have been a reason for the long discussion and the late consent for a prohibition.

But many times, the view on the global context is missing and a prohibition of these neonicotinoids would have effects on the inland production of maize and canola. As the production would decrease, the demand for canola oil and maize must be compensated anywise. Palm oil or GMO (genetically modified organism) oil seeds could be probably used as a cheap alternative. And here, the question arises, if these production systems are even worst concerning biodiversity and the use of even more harmful systemic herbicides, which are already prohibited in Europe for ages. The consideration of the global context must be included in the discussion, as sanctions in Europe can lead to positive as well as negative feedback loops.

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