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A landmark decision by the European Commission yesterday, means that bee-killing, neonicotinoid pesticides will experience a continent-wide ban in Europe for two years. A 15-member states majority supported the ban, with eight against and four abstaining.
European Health and Consumer Commissioner Tony Borg explains, “Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 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 annually to European agriculture, are protected.”
The ban comes several months after the EFSA released a report identifying “high acute risk” to honey bees from uses of certain neonicotinoid chemicals. The moratorium will begin no later than December 1 this year.
“We’re happy to see the EU take a leadership role to remove from the market these chemicals associated with colony collapse disorder and hazards to bee health. We’ll continue to push the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through legal and advocacy means to follow-up with urgent actions needed to protect bees,” says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
In the U.S., the silence from executive regulatory agencies is deafening. Beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups have continuously engaged the EPA on this issue, first filing an emergency legal petition to ban the pesticide clothianidin back in March 2012. After being told to effectively “buzz off” by regulators, Beyond Pesticides joined with beekeepers, environmental and consumer groups in a lawsuit challenging the agency’s oversight of these systemic pesticides, as well as their practice of “conditionally” registering pesticides without adequate data.
The EU vote represents a major setback to industry giants Syngenta and Bayer, which spent millions of dollars lobbying European states to not support a ban on their products, and casted calls for a ban on the unfounded accusations of “bee-hobbyists.”
According to the Guardian UK, “One Syngenta executive, mentioning in passing his recent lunch with Barack Obama, claimed that ‘a small group of activists and hobby bee-keepers’ were behind that campaign for a ban.” Industry continues to argue that a ban would be catastrophic to agriculture, but similar bans in Italy, Slovenia and Germany enacted a couple years ago did not hinder the agricultural community.
In light of these new restrictions across Europe, EPA must also move to restrict these chemicals in the U.S. to protect bee and other pollinator health.
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