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To Bee or Not To Bee: Europe Implements Insecticide Ban

The world’s first continent-wide ban on widely used insecticides, which are alleged to cause serious harm to bees, will be implemented in Europe after a European commission vote on Monday. Millions of environmental wellness campaigners, backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), see this as a landmark victory for reducing the dramatic decline in the bee population. However, chemical producers (who make billions each year from the products) and UK ministers (who voted against the ban) argued the ban would harm food production.

Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, The UK, Romania, Slovakia, Austria and Portugal voted against the ban, while Ireland, Lithuania, Finland and Greece abstained. However, as only 15 nations – Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, France, Cyprus, Germany, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden – voted in favour, the EU member states did not reach the required majority under voting rules. Therefore, the final decision will be in the hands of the European commission, which will implement the ban.

Tonio Borg, health and consumer commissioner, explained, ‘Our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the EFSA, [so] the European commission will go ahead with its plan in coming weeks.’ Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, 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.’

Greenpeace’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, noted, ‘By not supporting the ban, environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has exposed the UK government as being in the pocket of big chemical companies and the industrial farming lobby.’ However, the environment minister, Lord de Mauley, argued, ‘Having a healthy bee population is a top priority for us but we did not support the proposal because our scientific evidence doesn’t support it. We will now work with farmers to cope with the consequences as a ban will carry significant costs for them.’

Professor Simon Potts, a bee expert at the University of Reading, commented, ‘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. There are several alternatives to using neonicotinoids and farmers will benefit from healthy pollinator populations as they provide substantial economic benefits to crop pollination.’

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This entry was posted on July 2, 2013 by and tagged , , .
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