20th Mar 2018

Ban on bee-killing pesticides postponed

  • Some 2.5 million people signed an Avaaz petition to protect bees. (Photo: Andreas.)

A ban on bee-killing pesticides was postponed on Friday (15 March) when member state experts failed to agree on a binding decision to end their use.

“The text was not adopted and now we’ll have to reflect on what to do,” Frederic Vincent, the commission's health spokesperson, told this website.

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The European commission proposed in January to ban three nenicotinoids found to affect the health of Europe’s dwindling bee population.

The commission’s proposal followed a report by the EU’s food watchdog European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). It identified a number of risks posed to bees by three neonicotinoid insecticides.

Most member states voted in favour of the ban but the qualified majority threshold needed to make it binding was not met.

Five member states abstained, including the UK, Germany and Bulgaria, while nine countries, including Romania, Hungary and Finland, voted against the ban.

The Brussels-executive can either refer a revised proposal back to a formal committee for review or send the original text to an appeals committee within two months.

“If again we are stuck with no qualified majority in the appeals committee, just like GMOs, the commission can itself adopt a regulation,” said Vincent.

The appeal vote would still need a qualified majority but this time against the proposal.

"If it fails to reach that, the proposal will be implemented and members cannot challenge it," the New-York-based campaign group, Avaaz, told this website.

But pro-environment advocates say big industry will attempt to water down the proposal.

“The scientific evidence is clear, but pesticides companies like Syngenta and Bayer will continue to lobby to delay a ban as much as possible,” said Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero in a statement.

Meanwhile, a number of member states, including Germany, say they favour the ban but with conditions.

Germany, along with other member states, wanted exemptions on the basis that the nenicotinoids kill the bees only when mixed with airborne particles of dust.

An EU diplomat close to the issue told this website Germany has demonstrated a technique that ‘glues’ the nenicotinoids onto the seeds and prevents them from ever going airborne.

The seeds are treated with an adhesive agent that makes it dust-free and abrasion-resistant, he noted. They are then sowed with a special machine to ensure the agents remain bound to the seed.

The dissenting member states wanted the commission to revise its proposal with the technical exemption.

The commission, for its part, refused but had included other exemptions that would allow member states to spray the pesticide directly onto the leaves when mixed with water either before or after the plant has blossomed.

“That is something that we really do not understand,” said the EU diplomat.

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