Impact of Neonicotinoids in Africa Addressed

The potential risk of neonicotinoids in Africa will be assessed at a working group meeting hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina on 13 – 15 May 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya.

This working group meeting follows from a workshop which was held in South Africa in November 2018. The purpose of this working group meeting is for experts in the field to collaborate in drafting a report that summarises and outlines the state of knowledge on neonicotinoids and their impact on ecosystem services for agriculture and biodiversity in Africa. Key recommendations on the use of neonicotinoids and dissemination of these to policymakers and relevant political and scientific authorities will also be drafted. 

Increasing evidence from several scientific reviews indicating that the widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoids has severe negative effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services, including pollination and natural pest control, resulted in the partial ban of neonicotinoids in Europe in April 2018. 

Neonicotinoids have become the most widely-used insecticide since the 1990s and being registered in more than 120 countries, are the dominant agent used on insecticide-treated seeds. Neonicotinoids cause plant tissue to become toxic and block neural pathways in insects consuming parts of the plant. Because of the systemic nature, the insecticide gets into pollen and nectar, as well as plant residues, and non-target species, such as pollinators and predators are also exposed. When applied as dressings on plant seeds, significant parts of the active ingredient enter the soil and aquatic systems, broadening the potential exposure to non-target and non-insect species.  

Research has identified many potential effects on honeybees and other pollinators (e.g. bumble bees, solitary bees, flies, beetles or butterflies). Concern over the effects on individual species has also been associated with findings of substantial declines in insect populations overall, in particular honeybees, which could bring about a global pollination crisis.  

Although much of the scientific literature has emerged from Europe, the United States and Canada, these findings can be applied to agricultural systems of other countries. In Africa, subsistence farmers and rural communities rely directly and indirectly on the services provided by pollinators, either as hive products, like honey, or by pollinating the crops. Given the great dependence of African economies and societies on agriculture, there is an urgent need to identify and collate data which would allow the potential risks in Africa to be better evaluated. 

The meeting will be held at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and will be attended by some 30 researchers and experts on neonicotinoid insecticides from Africa and Europe.