EU plans total ban on ‘bee-killing’ pesticides

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

The EU plans to ban neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees
The EU plans to ban neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees

Related tags: Eu member states, European union

The EU’s pesticide regulation – which could include a blanket ban on the insecticides feared to kill bees – is flawed, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The policies are failing in a number of areas and focused on hazard rather than risk, while holding-back innovation, claimed Chris Hartfield, a senior regulatory affairs advisor to the NFU.

“From my meetings in Brussels, it appears the European Commission thinks a sticking-plaster will be enough to improve this regulation,”​ said Hartfield. “An urgent and major re-think is required if this regulation is ever to deliver on its objective to safeguard European agricultural production and competitiveness.”

Hartfield’s comments came as the EU prepared to ban three neonicotinoid pesticides that are widely believed to harm bees, it has been reported.

Widely believed to harm bees

The ban would apply to all areas of use, with the only exception coming from plants grown entirely in greenhouses. The ban could be implemented this year, if approved by a majority of EU Member States, which are expected to vote on the ban when the European Parliament convenes on May 17.

“The NFU will continue to call for the consideration and use of a sound science and evidence base by regulators, decision-makers, non-governmental organisations and opinion-formers when considering these issues,”​ said NFU vice president Guy Smith.

“The fact remains, there’s still no clear evidence showing that neonicotinoids are responsible for widespread declines in bee and pollinator populations. The evidence shows that the major declines in pollinator biodiversity, and in populations of farmland birds like tree sparrows and grey partridge, pre-dates the introduction of neonicotinoids by a decade or more.”

Pre-dates the introduction of neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids have been used for over 20 years. The EU banned three neonicotinoids in 2013, after scientific evidence showed they were harmful to bees, but the ban was lifted after two years.

It was estimated that the EU could lose at least 17bn if neonicotinoids were completely banned, according to 2013 research from the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, a not-for-profit think-tank representing government, academics and industry.

Meanwhile, environmental lobby group Greenpeace has welcomed the EU’s proposed ban.

“This is great news for bees and the environment,”​ said Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg. “For years, evidence that these chemicals harm bees has been mounting. Healthy pollinator populations are crucial for healthy ecosystems and food production.”

Related topics: Legal, Fresh produce

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