There have been mixed responses to the announcement that the EU has banned three more neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor use due to the risks identified to pollinators.

The UK voted in favour of the proposals that will see a ban on outdoor use of three neonicotinoids - Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam.

Neonicotinoid insecticides were introduced in the late 1990s and their use has escalated rapidly to the point where they have become the world's most commonly used insecticides.

Scientists have found increasing evidence that neonicotinoids are harmful to wild bees, butterflies and aquatic life.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director said: “The clear evidence of neonicotinoids’ harm to pollinators, and to wildlife in general, has been mounting for some time. Almost all of the toxic neonicotinoid spray gets into the soil rather than the crop, and from there to wild flowers and hedges around the edges of fields. Bees and other insects prefer feeding on wildflowers, which neonicotinoids can turn into deadly toxic traps. Today’s vote by EU member states, to extend their ban of neonicotinoids to include all outdoor crops, is a welcome demonstration that this overwhelming evidence can no longer be ignored.

“We now urge the government to consider the bigger picture. The current model of farming, based on a limited number of crops sprayed with a rapidly increasing number of toxic ingredients is causing devastating harm to the environment and to the wildlife that depends on it. Banning neonicotinoids is a positive step but it will not solve the wider problem if they are simply replaced with another pesticide. We need to move towards alternative systems of farming, such as organic, to find environmentally-sensitive ways of producing food while reversing the recent terrifying collapse in insect populations.”

However the NFU has pointed out that many crops grown in the UK will be less viable if neonicotinoids are not used.

Guy Smith, NFU deputy president, said: “This decision doesn’t change the fact that farmers will continue to face challenges to maintain sustainable and productive cropping systems and the pest problems that neonicotinoids helped farmers tackle have not gone away.

“Most agronomists agree that without neonicotinoids many crops grown in the UK will become less viable and a ban could simply mean we import more crops from parts of the world where there is no political desire to ban these key insecticides. So we will be looking to both the UK government and the Commission to work with the industry to mitigate the effect of a ban on both food production and the environment.

“The NFU believes a risk-based approach should be taken on this issue, where the impacts of potential changes are fully understood and recognised as providing genuine opportunities to improve bee and pollinator health. There is a real risk that these restrictions will do nothing measurable to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.

“Farmers are acutely aware that bees play a crucial role in food production. Farmers rely on bees to pollinate crops and have planted around 10,000 football pitches worth of flower habitat across the country to support a healthy bee population and give them a good home – all because they recognise the key role they play in producing safe, affordable food.”

Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife noted how long it has taken for this decision to have been taken. He said: "Today is a red letter day for the continent’s pollinators, we salute and thank all of the organisations, members of the public and politicians who have stood up for the bees and secured this much needed decision. This has been a long haul, arguably the ban should have come in years ago, but the NFU and pesticide industry have been wholly obstructive and have managed, mainly by use of misleading propaganda, to sustain the harm to bees and other wildlife for several years.”