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EU to Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides

EU to Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides

29 April 2013

EU - The EU Commission can today impose a two-year restriction on pesticides containing neonicotinoid chemicals, following a vote amongst EU member states, writes Gemma Hyland.

The ban follows concerns surrounding the effects of pesticides on declining bee populations. 

The neonicotinoid chemicals are believed to be a contributing factor to the decline in bees, however some farmers and experts say the theory is based on insufficient data.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban, however this was not enough to form a qualified ban.

A recent synthesis of 39 studies on 23 crops around the world, published earlier this month in the journal Ecology Letters confirms that wild bees are more abundant in diversified systems such as organic farms.

Responding to the announcement, Emma Hockridge, Soil Association Head of Policy said: "This is a victory not only for the bees and other pollinators, but for independent science against the political, pro-pesticide position adopted by UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and the pesticide industry.

"The European Commission and many European governments have reacted responsibly to the British and European scientific evidence showing clearly that a suspension is justified.

"Organic farming proves that systemic insecticides such as neonicotinoids are not needed to produce food. Also, there is strong evidence that a ban on neonicotinoids would work.

"In Italy, where the Government has taken decisive action and banned certain neonicotinoids pesticides, deaths of honey bees in winter subsequently fell by more than 50 per cent in three years."

Friends of the Earth also hailed the vote as a 'significant victory for bees and common sense', but warned that pesticides are not the only threat bees face.

Friends of the Earth's Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: "Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators.

"But pesticides are just one of the threats bees face - if David Cameron is genuinely concerned about declining bee numbers he must urgently introduce a Bee Action Plan."

Commenting on the UK Government's failure to support restrictions on neonicotinoids, Andrew Pendleton said: "The UK Government's refusal to back restrictions on these chemicals, despite growing scientific concern about their impact, is yet another blow to its environmental credibility.

"Ministers must now help farmers to grow and protect crops, but without relying so heavily on chemicals - especially those linked to bee decline."

'Catastrophic impacts'

NFU lead on bee health Dr Chris Hartfield said: “The Commission’s decision to ban three widely used neonicotinoids is likely to have catastrophic impacts for food production and unintended consequences for the environment, without delivering any measurable benefits for bee health.

“It is right that we take steps to protect bees – they are vital pollinators, but, any action needs to be proportionate to the problem. Crucially, we have to be confident that when we make changes, these changes will actually deliver benefits.

"At the moment, there is no evidence to show that there are any harmful effects of neonicotinoids on bees under field conditions. If we cannot find evidence of harm in the field, then it follows that we will not be able to measure any benefits of a ban either.

“This issue is about science and evidence, and finding a balanced way to tackle the significant challenges to bee health. However, it looks like we are about to make populist changes that do nothing to measurably improve the situation for bees, but will make it harder and more costly for farmers and growers to control pests on a whole range of agricultural and horticultural crops.”


Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

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