The European Commission (CE) has decided to forbid the use of three common pesticides used in crops that have been related with massive bee death worldwide, according to scientific research. These pesticides consist of three neonicotinoids which are frequently used during the sowing of sunflower, rapeseed, cotton and corn.
The disappearance of hundreds of millions of bees, which are vital for the ecosystem, has been a great concern for the scientific community for years. These insects have drastically decreased their number and this crisis has been called the colony collapse disorder (CCD). The origin of this problem might be related to the use of these pesticides.
The decision is based on the precaution principle that stems from a report given by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which indicates three pesticides from the neonicotinoid family that are commercialized in Europe by Bayer and Syngenta: clothianidin, tiamethoxam and imidacloprid. These chemicals can affect the bees’ nervous system, causing paralysis and even death, but they do not constitute a risk for human health.
Experts from member States shared their views today regarding the Brussels proposal and did not reach a qualified majority in favor or against the initiative. Thus, since there was no agreement, it is the responsibility of the European Commission to decide whether to incorporate the proposed restriction.
In total, fifteen Member States voted in favor (two additional States than the previous March vote): Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Malta, Holland, Poland and Sweden, as indicated by community sources. Eight countries voted against: the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
The European Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg, reminded that “bees are vital for our ecosystem” since they favor pollination. He also stated that their annual contribution towards European agriculture reaches up to over 22.000 million Euros.
The origin of the community proposal comes from a report by the EFSA, published in January that relates the use of neonicotinoid-based insecticides with the death rate of bee colonies. In particular, the EC suggests the modification of the approval conditions of three derivatives present in some pesticides: clothianidin, tiamethoxam and imidacloprid in order to restrict their use only to the crops that are not visited by bees and winter cereals, since the exposure to pesticides during autumn is not considered dangerous.
In addition, the Commission proposes to ban the use of seeds treated with products that contain these three substances (excluding in this case the seeds of the plants that do not attract bees and the winter cereal seeds). The exceptions will be limited to the possibility of treating crops in greenhouses or open air fields only after the flowering season.
The CE specified that the restrictions would be applied starting from December 1st and as soon as the information is available. In addition, in a period of no longer than two years, the terms of approval for these three substances must be checked in order to “take into account the relevant technical and scientific novelties”.
The president of the Committee on the Environment from the European Parliament, the German Social Democrat Matthias Groote, celebrated this decision on a report but he warned that “there are still data to be known” in order to understand exactly how neonicotinoids affect bees. He ensured that these substances are not the only threat for these insects.
Meanwhile, the French MEP from los Verdes Sandrine Bélier highlighted that this decision is only the “first stage” since these pesticides should be “completely” forbidden in order to have an adequate recovering process for bees. In relation to this, the British liberal Chris Davies stated that there is “enough evidence” to believe that neonicotinoids harm pollinators.
In a statement made by Greenpeace, this institution also celebrated the decision that came forward despite the pressure made by the companies that produce these pesticides such as Syngenta, Bayer o BASF. Beekeeper associations and environmental organizations such as Avaaz demonstrated today in front of the community institutions in Brussels in order to ask for the veto of these substances.