Environmental group welcomes European Union ban on bee-killing insecticides

James Marshall
April 30, 2018

"This comprehensive neonicotinoid ban, covering all outdoor crops, is a tremendous victory for our bees and the wider environment", said Sandra Bell, bee campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. Protection during the seedling stage is critical to the production and persistence of these pastures and crops. Also risky for bees, it said, were the drifts of dust sometimes created during the planting of neonicotinoid-treated seeds. This ban will decrease farmers' toolbox in an area where there are nearly no alternatives. "European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision", said Graeme Taylor, at the European Crop Protection Association. "Although alternatives do exist, the outcome of this decision is likely to be a greater use of insecticides applied as foliar sprays (spray applied to leaves), particularly on crops such as wheat and sugar beet (the banned neonics were only ever applied as seed treatments, not as sprays)".

Recently announced measures that will place heavy restrictions on the use of a controversial pesticide have divided opinions in the United Kingdom and Europe.

According to a statement released by the European Commission, EU states had "endorsed a proposal by the European Commission to further restrict the use of three active substances... for which a scientific review concluded that their outdoor use harms bees". It has also become increasing clear that different types of bees respond in different ways to similar exposure, and wild/unmanaged populations of pollinators may be more sensitive.

"It would seem that the decision will be fully implemented at the end of the year, so we now have a few months to take stock of where we are at and where we go from here".

Against the background of a government that has repeatedly blocked protective legislation at European Union level; has done nothing to defend the precautionary principle, and has no plan for a system of chemicals regulation outside the European Union, is it any wonder that Greens greet Gove's new green pose with such scepticism?

Prof Nigel Raine, at the University of Guelph in Canada: added: "Policy makers in other jurisdictions will be paying close attention to these decisions. The public can support them themselves by planting flowering pollinators in their gardens and using products which support nature, like our new Safe By Nature plant feed - a plant food made from natural ingredients to give the right balance of nutrients to grow strong, healthy roots and abundant fruits to be proud of". "Disagreements around the extent of impacts of neonicotinoids have underlined the need to properly understand the ramifications of different routes of exposure".

The UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) - the UK government's advisory body on pesticides - has said [pdf] scientific evidence shows that there are environmental risks posed by neonics to bees and pollinators. "Now more than ever it is so important that we find alternative methods of control through more resistant crops, biocontrol and other integrated pests management approaches".

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