Case Study 4: Neonicotinoid insecticides

About the case

In Europe, hundreds of different pesticides are allowed in farming to control fungi (fungicides), weeds (herbicides) and plague insects (insecticides) that may harm the crop. Among them are Neonicotinoid insecticides (in short: neonics) that, due to the risk they pose for the environment and pollinating insects in particular, are regulated through the precautionary principle.

The Case Study factsheet can be downloaded HERE

The full Case Study can be downloaded HERE

Some years after the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides on the European market in the 1990s and 2000s, monitoring assessments and studies started to connect their use to large -scale bee deaths. Thus, the precautionary principle was applied to restrict neonicotinoid insecticides in some European countries

Brief summary of the case study

The seriousness of the possible irreversible damaging effects of neonics on important ecosystem services such as pollinating insects, led to the application of the precautionary principle and to the ban of three neonics (imidacloprid, thiametoxam, clothianidin) in 2013 and again in 2018. The European Commission ban created much controversy, and resulted in a number of court cases against it.

This case outlines scientific uncertainties and ambiguities regarding the effects of neonics on pollinators (but also other species), in addition to the diverging perceptions of the role of the precautionary principle. It also discuss how innovation and precaution may interact.

A short video from the case study author

In this video, Laura Drivdal, researcher at the University of Bergen, presents his RECIPES case study on neonicotinoid insecticides, and explains how the precautionary principle has been applied, and contested, in the regulation of these insecticides.



As part of a special issue on human and policy dimension of pollinator decline, Laura Drivdal, pre-published the Open Access paper "Pollinator conservation requires a stronger and broader application of the precautionary principle".

Partner: University of Bergen


Laura Drivdal, University of Bergen
Jeroen P. van der Sluijs, University of Bergen


With thanks to:
Dafne Lemus at UiB, and the internal reviewers in the RECIPES group

Case Study
Publishing Date