EU Vote Allows 'Disastrous Chemical Armageddon' on Bees to Continue

Attempt to ban three widely used insecticides linked to harm to bees fails in EU on Friday

The "disastrous chemical armageddon on bees" is going to continue, according to one campaigner, after the European Union failed to reach a decision on Friday on the ban of three widely used insecticides linked to the decline of the pollinators.

"No qualified majority was reached, either in favor, or against the text," the European Commission said in a statement regarding the vote that would have put a partial ban on imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which belong to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, and are largely produced by Switzerland-based Syngenta and Germany-based Bayer.

Reuters reports that

Sources close to the discussions said 13 EU governments voted in favor of a ban and nine voted against, with five countries including Britain and Germany abstaining.

The Commission proposed the ban in January, after the EU's food safety watchdog EFSA said a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids pose an acute risk to honeybee health.

The lack of decision is a "cop-out by a significant number of European governments," Andrew Pendleton, Friends of the Earth's Head of Campaigns, said in a statement, adding that it meant "yet more dither and delay while our bee populations plummet."

Iain Keith, Senior Campaigner for Avaaz slammed the lack of agreement on a ban:

Today Germany and Britain have caved in to the industry lobby and refused to ban bee-killing pesticides. Today's vote flies in the face of science and public opinion and maintains the disastrous chemical Armageddon on bees, which are critical for the future of our food.

University of Stirling Prof. Dave Goulson, who led one of the key studies showing that neonicotinoids harm bumblebees, told the Guardian:

The independent experts at EFSA spent six months studying all the evidence before concluding there was an unacceptable risk to bees. EFSA and almost everybody else - apart from the manufacturers - agree this class of pesticides were not adequately evaluated in the first place. Yet politicians choose to ignore all of this.

Also saying that a mountain of evidence against neonicotinoids exists was Greenpeace EU agricultural policy director Marco Contiero, who stated ahead of the vote that

The European and global scientific community have warned repeatedly that neonicotinoids and other pesticides are contributing to the dramatic decline of bees. To ignore these warnings would be irresponsible and damaging to European farming, which relies on the work of bees and other pollinators.

Some environmentalist are still holding out for a better outcome, as the Guardian reports that "The ban could still be enforced within months if the EC takes the decision to an appeals committee... The same 'hung' vote at the appeals committee would mean the EC could enforce the ban."

The Greens in the European Parliament see hope in the inconclusive outcome of Friday's vote because implementation of the ban is still possible, but say that an environmentally responsible approach would be to ban not just the three insecticides proposed but all neonicotinoids:

The Commission's proposal to suspend the use of 3 neonicotinoids came on the back of reports from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the toxicity risk to bees of the neonicotinoid insecticides. Suspending the use of these insecticides was the only responsible course of action in response to the report, which highlighted the failures of the European and national risk assessment and monitoring systems, which enabled neonicotinoids to harm bees for a long period. This is a minimum first step and we call on EU governments not to delay this essential measure to simply placate disingenuous agro-chemical firms.

In reality, the suspension proposed by the Commission is only a first step. A complete ban of all neonicotinoids is clearly essential to prevent the collapse of our bee colonies, as only a full ban will stop the exposure of non-target insects to these persistent, systemic compounds that stay in the soil and find their way to nectar and pollen over many years.

Contiero stated Friday that "It is important for the European Commission not to drag its feet but to act quickly to pursue a complete ban that is in line with scientific advice."

* * *

Click here to see photos from Avaaz's action in Brussels Thursday to save the bees.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.