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EU Member States Reach No Conclusive Decision on Neonicotinoids

Lack of majority vote stifles EU decision on insecticides some say are linked to bee decline

Published on: Mar 15, 2013

European Union member states Friday voted on a proposal to suspend the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides on concern of harm to bee populations, though no conclusive majority vote on the issue was reached.

The proposed suspension of the three pesticides in question – clothianidin, thiametoxam and imidacloprid – was brought for consideration earlier this year when a European Food Safety Authority report found the products pose possible risks to bees.

The proposal would have also prohibited the sale and use of seeds treated with the three pesticides, and restrict the use of the products to professionals.

EFSA says the pesticides are used mainly on sunflowers, oilseed rape, maize and some cereals.

Lack of majority vote stifles EU decision on insecticides some say are linked to bee decline
Lack of majority vote stifles EU decision on insecticides some say are linked to bee decline

Bayer CropSciences welcomed the decision Friday, maintaining its position that the commission failed to make the appropriate impact assessments of any decisions they proposed on the broader interests of European stakeholders.

"Any political decision relating to registrations of neonicotinoid-containing products should be based on scientific evidence of adverse effects of the affected products under realistic conditions," Bayer said in a press statement.

"There has been a long history of the safe use of neonicotinoid insecticides and it is clear that when they are used responsibly and properly, any impact on bees is negligible," Bayer says. "This has already been confirmed by the competent EU and Member State authorities in their market authorization assessments, based on the extensive safety data that had previously been submitted and proven in many monitoring studies."

Syngenta says it believes the European Commission tried to justify its actions on the basis of a hurried and theoretical review by the EFSA, leading to "fundamental mistakes an over-estimation of the amount of pesticide bees are exposed to under field conditions."

"We are pleased that EU Member States did not support the European Commission's shamefully political proposal. Restricting the use of this vital crop protection technology will do nothing to help improve bee health," Syngenta's Chief Operating Officer, John Atkin, said.

EU activist group Avaaz, however, says the lack of a majority vote "flies in the face" of science and public opinion.

"Today Germany and Britain have caved in to the industry lobby and refused to ban bee-killing pesticides. Today’s vote … maintains the disastrous chemical Armageddon on bees, which are critical for the future of our food," Avaaz Senior Campaigner Iain Keith said.

About 2.5 million people signed an Avaaz petition to ban the pesticides. According to the group's poll, 71% of the British public and 90% of Germans wanted their government to support the proposed ban.

Syngenta urged the European Commission to broaden efforts to tackle the real causes of the decline in bee health rather than continuing to focus on neonicotinoid pesticides, which they say deliver significant socio-economic and environmental benefits.

Click here to read the EFSA report.