The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides is the response of the scientific community to concern around the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystems. Its intention is to provide the definitive view of science to inform more rapid and improved decision-making.
The mandate of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (TFSP) has been set by IUCN Resolution WCC-2012-Res-137: Support for a comprehensive scientific review of the impact on global biodiversity of systemic pesticides by the joint task force of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM), adopted by the Members’ Assembly of the IUCN in Jeju, Korea, in September 2012:
“to carry out a comprehensive, objective, scientific review and assessment of the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity, and on the basis of the results of this review to make any recommendations that might be needed with regard to risk management procedures, governmental approval of new pesticides, and any other relevant issues that should be brought to the attention of decision makers, policy developers and society in general”.
The Task Force has adopted a science-based approach and aims to promote better informed, evidence-based, decision-making. The method followed is Integrated Assessment (IA) which aims to provide policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive information on key aspects of the issue at hand. To this end an international highly multidisciplinary team of scientists jointly made a synthesis of 1,121 published peer-reviewed studies spanning the last five years, including industry-sponsored ones. All publications of the TFSP have been subject to the standard scientific peer review procedures of the journal.
In 2009 a group of European scientists from several disciplines convened amid growing scientific concern about the rapid decline in insect and arthropod populations across Europe.
Their objective was to consider all the possible causes of the decline from the 1950s to the present time. This included the intensification of agriculture with its accompanying loss of natural habitats and massive use of pesticides and herbicides, the manifold increase in roads and motorized traffic, climate change, continent-wide nocturnal light pollution and other types of pollution and stress introduced by modernization.
During their analysis, using a range of records and data sets, the group observed a significant escalation in the decline across most species beginning in the 1990s. This began in Western Europe, followed by Eastern and Southern Europe and presented as massive collapses of different species, genera and families of arthropods. These collapses additionally coincided with the severe decline of populations of different insectivorous bird species previously considered ‘common’ such as swallows, sparrows and shrikes.
Without any a priori assumption privileged, and on the basis of existing studies, numerous observations in the field and extensive circumstantial evidence, the group concluded that a new generation of pesticides, the persistent, systemic and neurotoxic neonicotinoids, introduced in the mid 1990’s, might be considered as one of the main causes of the escalation in decline. This concern led to the establishment of the TFSP.