Pesticides blamed for bee decline face EU restrictions

8th February 2013


Bees

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The European Commission is proposing a two-year moratorium on the use of three pesticides containing neonicotinoid chemicals, which the European Food Safety Agency claims pose a risk to bees

Research by the agency found that clothianidin and imidacloprid, which are used in products from Bayer CropScience, and thiamethoxam, the active ingredient in Cruiser OSR from Syngenta, pose an “acute risk” to honeybees, though it stopped short of linking them to the recent collapse in bee colonies.

“We are requesting that member states suspend for two years the use of these [neonicotinoid] pesticides on seeds, granular atom sprays and for crops that attract bees – sunflower, maize, rape and cotton,” said Frédéric Vincent, a spokesperson for the EU health and consumer commissioner.

The commission aims to have legislation in place by the beginning of July banning the pesticides in such circumstances, although member states have yet to give their approval.

The commission decision is based on the precautionary principle, which obliges it to act even when the scientific evidence of environmental or health risks is inconclusive.

Bayer CropScience described the commission’s proposal as “draconian”. “The company believes that the commission’s overly conservative interpretation of the precautionary principle is a missed opportunity to achieve a fair and proportional solution,” the German firm said in a statement.

Before the commission announcement, several UK retailers said they would stop selling products containing neonicotinoid chemicals.

B&Q said it would no longer stock pesticide containing imidacloprid because of “concerns about the potential for harm”, while Wickes announced that it would replace a product containing thiamethoxam later this year.

Homebase told Friends of the Earth that “as a precautionary measure” it had removed from sale the Bayer Lawn Grub Killer, which contains imidacloprid.

According to the project examining the status and trends of European pollinators, about 16% of the EU’s honeybee colonies disappeared between 1985 and 2005.

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