EU bans bee-killing chemicals
European Union member states have backed a proposal to ban outdoor insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, that studies have shown are harmful to bees.
Bees, which help pollinate 90 per cent of the world’s major crops, have been dying off from “colony collapse disorder”, which has been blamed partly on pesticides.
The ban covers the use of three active substances: imidacloprid developed by Bayer CropScience, clothianidin made by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam.
“All outdoor uses will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where exposure of bees is not expected,” the European Commission, the executive branch, announced.
EU countries in the European Council voted for a ban on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides in fields, meaning they can now be used only in covered greenhouses.
Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the protection of bees was an important issue, “since it concerns biodiversity, food production and our environment”.
In February the European Food Safety Authority said the chemicals posed a risk to honey and wild bees.
Bayer criticised the ban as “a sad day for farmers and a bad deal for Europe” and said it would not help bees.
Many farmers had no other way of controlling pests and would revert to spraying with older, less effective chemicals.
The use of neonicotinoids in the EU has been restricted to certain crops since 2013, but environmentalists have called for a total ban.
EU Environment Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said he was “happy that member states voted in favour of our proposal”, and tweeted a picture of bee activists in Brussels.
Friends of the Earth described the decision of EU governments as a “tremendous victory” for bees and for the environment.
“The European Commission must now focus on developing a strong pollinator initiative that boosts bee-friendly habitat and helps farmers cut pesticide-use,” the environmental group said.
Both Bayer and Syngenta have challenged the 2013 partial ban at the European Court of Justice, which is due to make a verdict by May 17.
Unlike contact pesticides, which remain on a plant’s surface, neonicotinoids are absorbed from the seed phase and sent to leaves, flowers, roots and stems.
They have been widely used this century and designed to control sap-feeding insects, such as aphids and root-feeding grubs.
The UN warned last year that 40 per cent of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, were at risk of global extinction.
Picture credit: Wikimedia