On Monday, the insecticide and two others were banned for two years from use on some crops across the European Union, due to the risk posed to bees and other pollinators, on which many food crops rely.
“We are risking far too much to combat a few insect pests that might threaten agriculture,” said Dr Jeroen van der Sluijs at Utrecht University. “This substance should be phased out internationally as soon as possible.” The pollution was so bad in some places that the ditch water in fields could have been used as an effective pesticide, he said.
The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, found that 70% less invertebrate species were found in water polluted with the insecticide compared to clean water. There were also far fewer individuals of each species in the polluted water. “This is the first study to show this happens in the field,” van der Sluijs said. As well as killing mayflies, midges and molluscs, the pollution could have a knock-on effect on birds such as swallows that rely on flying insects for food, he added.
“Bee-harming pesticides are now leaking into water where they are affecting wildlife,” said Friends of the Earth’s Paul de Zylva. “This study shows safety levels for chemicals are being routinely breached. Apart from not being properly tested for their risk to bees and other wildlife, pesticides are being used significantly above safe levels and without proper enforcement.”