PerspectiveEnvironmental Science

The trouble with neonicotinoids

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Science  14 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6211, pp. 806-807
DOI: 10.1126/science.1259159

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Four decades ago, DDT and other pesticides that cause environmental harm were banned. Since then, newly developed pesticides have had to conform to stricter environmental standards. Yet, recent studies highlight the subtle but deadly impacts of neonicotinoids—the most widely used insecticides in the world—on ecosystems (13). In contrast to other insecticides, neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning that they are highly soluble and thus absorbed by the plant. They produce delayed mortality in arthropods after chronic exposure to sublethal doses but are not very toxic to vertebrates. It has taken more than a decade to unravel some of the mechanisms through which neonicotinoids affect the integrity of ecosystems. Although gaps in knowledge remain, there is a strong case for stricter regulation of these pesticides.