Neonicotinoids: What do we in Europe need to open our eyes and ban these unsafe pesticides?

On March 15, EU Member States decided not to ban three widely used insecticides which are directly linked to bee deaths. Thirteen Member States voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal to ban the three neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Unfortunately, five Member States abstained and nine opposed to the proposal, beginning a new period of negotiation. In the meantime, these pesticides remain on the market. The European Beekeeping Coordination, an organization working in collaboration with Slow Food, is extremely disappointed with the outcome of the vote.

As Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumers, saidm, “The protection of bees across the EU is vital not only for agriculture, but also for the ecosystem and the environment as a whole.” European legislation states that pesticides can be withdrawn from the market if science shows that they create unacceptable effects on bees and impact biodiversity and the ecosystem.

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) itself, scientific experts of DG Health & Consumers and watchdog of EU’s safety, have recognized a high risk of these neonicotinoid insecticides on bees based on scientific proof. However, the EU was unable to move and take measures to ban the neonicotinoids. It seems that 14 Member States rely more on the arguments provided by the pesticide industry than those provided by the scientific advisor of the Commission.

A period for negotiations regarding the Commission’s proposal starts now. Considering the long persistence of these pesticides in the environment (e.g. clothianidin up to 19 years), their wide distribution in the environment and their high toxicity to bees (over 7,000 times that of DDT), the selective ban of neonicotinoids over two years proposed by the Commission was not considered as ideal by beekeepers, but better than nothing.

Currently, beekeepers have serious concerns about the possible “decaf” proposal that may end up after the negotiation period. “The growing, unstoppable decline is certainly a consequence of an agro-industrial production aiming, more and more, to maximise its output without consideration for the vital forces responsible for life creation. Now, even the basic principles of agronomic science are challenged. In fact, dropping crop rotation clearly generates an explosive growth of pest populations, that are then “bred and propelled”.

“This type of agro-industrial production demands the use of these “chemical weapons” that are more and more powerful, persistent and even destructive, says Francesco Panella, chairman of UN.A.API (National Union of Italian Beekeepers Association).“It is an alarming situation, with a large part of the society becoming increasingly concerned and aware. The end of neonicotinoids, which are killing bees and life itself, is inevitable. A total ban is necessary. But how and when this is going to happen will depend on the lobbying ability of European citizens.”

The European Beekeeping Coordination hopes that the political decisions being made in Europe will be based on scientific judgments and major European pillars, which are the precautionary principle.

For more information: Why are neonicotinoids a threat to ecological health and safety of the European Union?

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