Bee-harming pesticides will be banned in Europe for two years. The decision was made by the European Commission on Monday and will ban three pesticides.
The ban is the world’s first continent-wide restriction on the pesticides, which environmentalists allege are killing the bees that work to pollinate Europe’s crops.
The decision was a blow to Bayer of Germany and Sygenta of Switzerland, the two chemical companies which turn profits from the now-banned chemicals. The companies claim that their products are not to blame for the sharp decline in the bee population.
In a vote in Brussels, 15 European governments backed the two-year suspension on the bee-harming pesticides but failed to reach a majority by the EU’s standards. However, the final decision was made by the Commission. EU health commissioner Tonio Borg stated after the vote:
“I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion euros annually to European agriculture, are protected.”
The three potentially bee-harming pesticides will be banned beginning December 1, 2013 for use on some crops during seasons crucial for bee survival. The insecticides included are imidacloprid and clothianidin, produced by Bayer, and thiamethoxam by Sygenta. The products are used to treat seeds. They are also applied to the soil or sprayed on bee-attractive plants and cereals.
The bee-harming pesticide suspension is a landmark victory for millions of environmental campaigners. Backed by the European Food Safety Administration, they have been concerned about a dramatic loss in the bee population. Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns for the Friends of the Earth, added:
“This decision is a significant victory for common sense and our beleaguered bee populations. Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators.”
Bees and other insects vital to global food production have seen a dramatic drop in population in recent years. A series of high-profile studies has linked neonicotinoids — the world’s most popular insecticide — to huge losses in queen bees and big rises in the numbers of “disappeared” bees — those who never return from foraging trips.
The three pesticides banned in Europe are neonicotinoids, or bee-harming pesticides. Both Sygenta and Bayer released statements following the vote. A spokesman for Bayer commented, “Bayer remains convinced neonicotinoids are safe for bees, when used responsibly and properly … clear scientific evidence has taken a back-seat in the decision-making process.”
But Professor Simon Potts, a bee expert at the University of Reading, celebrated the decision, adding, “The ban is excellent news for pollinators. The weight of evidence from researchers clearly points to the need to have a phased ban of neonicotinoids.”
Among those who supported the bee-harming pesticide ban were Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, France, and Germany. Opponents included the UK, Italy, Hungary, Austria, and Portugal.
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