Supermarket introduces precautionary ban on fresh produce suppliers using neonicotinoids until their effect on bees is clarified

The supermarket chain Waitrose has added its weight to the debate over the safety of neonicotinoid pesticides.

While governments struggle with the conflicting field trial data and lobbying by environmental groups and the agrichemical industry, Waitrose has specified that its suppliers should immediately stop using clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam on crops that are attractive to pollinating insects.

The move follows several UK garden centre and DIY store chains removing products from the shelves as a precautionary measure.

The company suggests that the ban will remain in place until the effects of the pesticides are clarified. It will also be funding research into the topic with the University of Exeter. This evidence-based approach is commended by the RSC’s executive director for science and education, Jim Iley. ‘It is difficult to attribute cause and effect where the science is uncertain,’ Iley adds. ‘If the cause of a problem is wrongly diagnosed, precautionary action aimed at reducing the risk may be inappropriate and ineffective, and for this reason an outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides without full evidence is of great concern to the RSC.’

‘This is an emotive topic, quite understandably. The bee is a vital part of our environment and of agriculture, therefore its decline must be addressed, whatever the root of the problem,’ Iley concludes.