CATCH THE BUZZ
EU Votes To Ban Neonics, but Barely
A deeply divided European Union will go ahead with a ban on the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam – blamed by critics for the decline in honey bee number.
The EU Commission will proceed with the suspension of their use from next Dec, 1 after 15 EU countries supported the restriction, eight voted against and 4 abstained.
The halt will be for at least two years.
“Although a majority of Member States now supports our proposal, the necessary qualified majority was not reached,” Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg said in a statement. “The decision now lies with the Commission. Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks.
“I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion (US$28.8 billion) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”
The plan restricts the use of the three neonicotinoids for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on bee attractive plants and flowering crops such as corn, oil seed rape and sunflower.
Any other authorized uses must be carried out by professionals.
Exceptions will be limited to treating bee-attractive crops in greenhouses, in open-air fields only after flowering.
An EU statement says that as soon as new information is available, and at the latest within two years, the Commission will review the conditions of approval of the three neonicotinoids to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.
Experts representing the 27 EU countries had met March 15 as the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health and failed to reach a qualified majority to on the proposal to ban the three neonicotinoids.
Then the vote was 13 for a ban, nine against with five abstentions. The proposal was then referred to the appeal committee which also failed to reach the required majority, allowing the Commission to step in and impose the two-year ban.
The decision is seen as a victory for campaigners concerned about dramatic declines in bees, but a defeat for the chemical companies who make the products and the UK government which said a ban will harm food production.
The UK’s Soil Association Head of Policy Emma Hockridge called the decision 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.
“There is strong evidence that a ban on neonicotinoids would work,” Hockridge says. “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% in three years.”
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