21st Mar 2018

EU wants partial ban on bee-killing pesticides

  • Bees - essential for pollinating crops (Photo: Brad Smith)

The drop in bee populations in Europe prompted the European Commission on Thursday (31 January) to propose a two-year partial ban on three neonicotinoid insecticides.

“We want to suspend for two years the use of these pesticides on crops such as sunflower, oil rapeseed, maize and cotton,” Federic Vincent, EU spokesperson for health, told journalists in Brussels.

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The EU’s food watchdog European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a report in January linking the pesticides to bee decline across Europe. The chemicals are a class of insecticides that affects the central nervous system of insects, causing paralysis and death.

The report is now under review by experts from each member state with a final decision to be made before March for any proposal on a EU-wide regulation.

Further scientific evidence and studies released in March last year found that bees in contact with neonicotinoids suffer an 85 percent drop in the number of queens produced in each hive, reports the Guardian. The chemicals were also shown to disorient the bee, making it unable to return to the hive.

France, Slovenia and Italy have already introduced national bans on the neonicotinoids. But both the UK and Germany are reportedly showing some resistance to the idea. German manufacturer Bayer CropSciences makes some of the chemicals found in the pesticide as does Swiss-based Syngenta.

The industry resistance and the commission’s reluctance to implement a complete ban on using the chemicals has generated criticism from pro-green groups.

“Europe’s politicians should prioritise saving the bees rather than listening to the short-term interests of the pesticide industry. A complete ban of all neonicotinoids is the least we can do to stop the collapse of our bee colonies,” Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes said in a statement.

For its part, Greenpeace welcomed the commission’s proposals but said the Brussels-executive also stops short of recommending a precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoids with all crops where EFSA could not assess risks.

Over 80 percent of the main 264 crops cultivated in Europe rely on animal pollination, mostly by bees, while around 90 percent of wild plants rely on bee pollination, according to the United Nations Environment programme.

A spokesperson at the campaign group Avaaz, which handed over an anti-neonicotinoid petition of 2.2m signatures to Brussels, told this website that some member states have seen 50 percent decline in their populations.

Some farmers are now forced to hire beekeepers to release their hives in order to pollinate their crops.

“You now have companies that have hives with thousands of bees and they will drive around Europe and take them into farmer’s fields,” Avaaz spokesperon Iain Keith told this website.

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