27.04.2018 |

EU to ban outdoor use of bee-harming neonic pesticides

Neonics harm wild bees and honeybees (Photo: CC0)

The European Union will ban the outdoor use of widely used insecticides due to the danger they pose to bees. On April 27, EU member states backed a proposal by the European Commission to restrict the use of three active substances (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam) to permanent greenhouses. The necessary qualified majority was reached in the Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, with 18 member states voting in favour of a ban, including France, Germany, Italy and the UK. “All outdoor use of the three substances will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where no contact with bees is expected,” the Commission said in a statement. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis welcomed the vote, stressing that “the Commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority.” In February, a major EFSA risk assessment spanning 1,500 scientific studies re-confirmed that neonicotinoid pesticides pose a serious threat to wild bees and honeybees. “Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment,” said the commissioner Andriukaitis.

Environmentalists and scientists welcomed the ban. Greenpeace EU food policy adviser Franziska Achterberg said: “This is great news for pollinators and our wider environment, but there was never any question that these three neonicotinoids had to go. Now the EU must make sure that they are not simply swapped with other harmful chemicals.” She highlighted that these three neonicotinoids are just the tip of the iceberg and that there are many more pesticides, including other neonicotinoids, that are just as dangerous for bees and food production. “Governments must ban all bee-harming pesticides and finally shift away from toxic chemicals in farming.” Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, said the “EU decision is a logical one” given the “abundant evidence from lab and field studies that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees, and a growing body of evidence linking them to declines of butterflies, aquatic insects and insect-eating birds”. However, he also warned that “we will simply be going round in circles” if the three neonicotinoids are simply replaced by other similar compounds such as sulfoxaflor, cyantraniliprole and flupyradifurone. “What is needed is a move towards truly sustainable farming methods that minimise pesticide use, encourage natural enemies of crop pests, and support biodiversity and healthy soils,” Goulson stressed. (ab)

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