Updated: EU to ban pesticide linked to bee decline

30th April 2013

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  • Chemicals ,
  • Agriculture ,
  • Stewardship ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity



The European Commission is to halt the use of three pesticides containing neonicotinoids, despite 12 member states, including the UK, refusing to back the ban

The commission has confirmed that it is introducing a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam on bee attractive crops from 1 December 2013.

The two-year ban follows the recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority (EFAS), which reported in January that the chemicals posed an “acute risk” to honeybees.

European countries were asked to vote for a second time on restricting the use of the pesticides, after failing to agree on whether to take action in March. Despite 15 member states voting in favour of the ban, the UK and seven other countries rejected the proposals. A further four abstained.

The hung vote meant that the decision to implement a moratorium rested solely with the commission, and Tonio Borg, the health and consumer commissioner, confirmed that the ban would be taking place.

“Although a majority of member states now supports our proposal, the necessary qualified majority was not reached. Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by EFSA, the commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks.

“I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute more than €22 billion annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

The decision means that from 1 December clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam, which are used in products from companies like Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, cannot be used for seed or foliar treatment or as a soil application for bee attractive plants and cereals.

The UK has refused to back the ban, arguing that the evidence for a link between neonicotinoids and falling bee numbers is not robust.

Reacting to the commission's decision, environment minister Lord de Mauley said: “Having a healthy bee population is a top priority for us but we did not support the proposal for a ban because our scientific evidence doesn’t support it.

"Significant countries agree with us that a ban is not the right action to take and we will work with them to get much better evidence. We will now work with farmers to cope with the consequences as a ban will carry significant costs for them.”

Defra’s approach was strongly criticised by the parliamentary environmental audit committee earlier this month. MPs concluded that the department was allowing economic concerns to become “entangled with environmental decision making”.

The commission has pledged to review the moratorium on the pesticides “as soon as new information is available, and at the latest within two years”.

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