Alternatives to neonicotinoids

Alternatives to neonicotinoids

Article paru en aout 2019 dans Environment International

Alternatives to neonicotinoids

Jactel H, Verheggen F, Thiéry D, Escobar-Gutiérrez AJ, Gachet E, Desneux N, the Neonicotinoids Working Group (2019)


The European Food Safety Authority concluded in February 2018 that “most uses of neonicotinoid insecticides represent a risk to wild bees and honeybees”. In 2016, the French government passed a law banning the use of the five neonicotinoids previously authorized: clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid and thiacloprid. In the framework of an expert assessment conducted by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety to identify possible derogations, we performed a thorough assessment of the available alternatives to the five banned neonicotinoids. For each pest targeted by neonicotinoids use, we identified the main alternative pest management methods, which we then ranked for

  • efficacy for controlling the target pest,
  • applicability (whether directly useable by farmers or in need of further research and development),
  • durability (risk of resistance in targeted pests), and (iv) practicability (ease of implementation by farmers).

We identified 152 authorized uses of neonicotinoids in France, encompassing 120 crops and 279 pest insect species (or genera). An effective alternative to neonicotinoids use was available in 96% of the 2968 case studies analyzed from the literature (single combinations of one alternative pest control method or product × one target crop plant × one target pest insect). The most common alternative to neonicotinoids (89% of cases) was the use of another chemical insecticide (mostly pyrethroids). However, in 78% of cases, at least one non-chemical alternative method could replace neonicotinoids (e.g. microorganisms, semiochemicals or surface coating).

The relevance of non-chemical alternatives to neonicotinoids depends on pest feeding habits. Leaf and flower feeders are easier to control with non-chemical methods, whereas wood and root feeders are more difficult to manage by such methods. We also found that further field studies were required for many promising non-chemical methods before their introduction into routine use by farmers.

Our findings, transmitted to policymakers, indicate that non-chemical alternatives to neonicotinoids do exist. Furthermore, they highlight the need to promote these methods through regulation and funding, with a view to reducing pesticide use in agriculture.

Environment International, 129, 423-429

Date de modification : 17 août 2023 | Date de création : 31 mai 2019 | Rédaction : DT