European Commission poised to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides said to harm bees

A decision on restricting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides said by the European Food Safety Agency to be devastating to bee populations is in the hands of the European Commission, which proposed the ban, after a vote in an EU appeal committee failed to produce the qualified majority for a decision.

The April 29 2013 appeal committee vote was a sequel to a March 15 meeting that did not approve a ban because a number of countries voted against or formally abstained.

There have been demonstrations in various EU cities, from London to Sofia, in favour of a ban. The companies that produce the pesticides reject the findings of the food safety agency investigation and have offered alternatives that they say will preserve bee populations.

The April 29 vote was 15 in favour of the restrictions, eight against and four abstentions. Since the previous vote, after a series of protests by beekeepers, Bulgaria changed its stance from abstaining to voting for a ban.

Tonio Borg, European Health and Consumer Commissioner, said: “Although a majority of member states now supports our proposal, the necessary qualified majority was not reached. The decision now lies with the Commission. Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks.

“I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion euro annually to European agriculture, are protected,” Borg said.

The proposal restricts the use of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for seed treatment, soil application (granules) andfoliar treatment on bee attractive plants and cereals.

In addition, the remaining authorised uses are available only to professionals.

Exceptions will be limited to the possibility to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses, in open-air fields only after flowering.

The restrictions will apply from December 1 2013.

The European Commission said that as soon as new information is available, and at the latest within two years, the Commission will review the conditions of approval of the three neonicotinoids to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.

(Photo: Nate Brelsford)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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