EU Bee Protection Ban On Pesticides Fails To Pass
March 17, 2013

Proposed EU Ban On Alleged Bee-Killing Pesticides Fails to Pass

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

European Union (EU) nations have failed to agree on proposals that would have banned three pesticides reportedly linked to the decline of the global bee population.

According to the BBC, a recent report from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has concluded the substances in question posed a “high acute risk” to the pollinating insects.

The EU´s executive body, the European Commission, had been seeking a two-year moratorium on the use of the three types of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are chemically related to nicotine, on corn, apples, carrots, strawberries and other types of flowering crops, said Damian Carrington of The Guardian.

Sources close to the discussions told Reuters that 13 EU countries were in favor of the ban and nine others voted against it. Five states abstained, including Germany and the UK. Members of a global advocacy group Avaaz said that by abstaining, those two prominent European countries “caved in to the industry lobby.”

An unidentified spokeswoman from the UK´s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) denied that accusation, telling Kinver that 14 of the 27 EU nations opposed the proposed ban in its current form.

“Bee health is extremely important but decisions must be based on sound scientific evidence and rushing this through could have serious unintended consequences both for bees and for food production,” she told BBC News. “We are currently finalizing studies that will give us the evidence on which to base a proper decision. But as we do not have the evidence yet, it is impossible for us to vote either way.”

The European Commission plans to continue pushing for the moratorium on the chemicals, which are found in two Bayer CropScience products and one Syngenta product. Frédéric Vincent, the spokesman for the EC´s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, which originally proposed the pesticide ban, told Bloomberg Businessweek the agency had “no intention of dropping this.”

Vincent also suggested there could be another vote on the proposal, even if it is not revised, within the next eight weeks. Under EU rules, the commission will have to make changes to the potential ban and reach a compromise within that two month period, or else the Commission will be able to enact the proposal unilaterally — something that Vincent did not dismiss as a possibility, according to Reuters.

There have been some conflicting reports about exactly how harmful neonicotinoids are to bee populations.

“Of course they can kill bees; they are insecticides,” Lin Field, the head of crop protection at Rothamsted Research, told reporters. “But whether they actually do this or whether sub-lethal effects occur and damage the colonies on any important scale has not been proven“¦ In my view there is still is not enough clear evidence supporting a ban on neonicotinoids.”

Likewise, in a statement cited by the BBC, Bayer CropScience said the failure of the proposal proves there is “no convincing argument against the continuing use of neonicotinoid-based products“¦ Not only had the commission incorrectly based their rationale on recent EFSA reviews of these products, they had failed to make the appropriate impact assessments of any decisions they proposed on the broader interests of European stakeholders.”

University of Stirling Biological Sciences Professor David Goulson disagreed. He claims there is, in Reuters´ words, “clear evidence” that feeding on crops treated with these products could cause “significant harm” to the pollinators. "Yet politicians choose to ignore all of this. Presumably their opinions were swayed by the spurious claims that restricting use of these insecticides will cause vast economic losses to farming," Goulson added.

Andrew Pendleton, campaign manager for environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth, added there was "more than enough evidence that these chemicals are linked to bee decline to place immediate restrictions on their use.” He called the results of the vote “a cop-out by a significant number of European governments, including the UK — it means yet more dither and delay while our bee populations plummet.”