OPEN PeerJ | 25 Jul 2018
D Goulson, J Thompson and A Croombs
A strong argument can be made that the European Union has the most rigorous regulatory system for pesticides in the world, and that modern pesticide use poses fewer environmental threats than older regimes. Nevertheless, the impacts of pesticides on bees and other non-target organisms are much debated in Europe as elsewhere. Here we document changing patterns of pesticide use in arable and horticultural crops in Great Britain from 1990 to 2015. The weight of pesticides used has approximately halved over this period, but in contrast the number of applications per field nearly doubled. The total potential kill of honeybees (the total number of LD50 doses applied to the 4.6 million hectares of arable farmland in Great Britain each year) increased six-fold to approximately 3 × 1016 bees, the result of the increasing use of neonicotinoids from 1994 onwards which more than offset the effect of declining organophosphate use. It is important to stress that this does not mean that this number of bees will be killed, and also to acknowledge that our simple analysis does not take into account many factors such as differences in persistence, and timing and mode of application of pesticides, which will affect actual exposure of non-target organisms. Nonetheless, all else being equal, these data suggest that the risk posed by pesticides to non-target insects such as bees, other pollinators and natural enemies of pests, has increased considerably in the last 26 years.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com