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EU to ban pesticides

Post  Panda on Mon 29 Apr - 15:34

29 April 2013 Last updated at 15:15

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Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

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Honeybees are vital for
pollinating crops - a job that would be very costly without them

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The European Commission will restrict
the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers, despite a split among
EU states on the issue.

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee

Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the
European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to
bees and other pollinators.

But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban - not enough to form a qualified
majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now impose a two-year
restriction on neonicotinoids - and the UK cannot opt out.

The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 July
this year.

The UK did not support a ban - it argues that the science behind the proposal
is inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four

Wild species such as honey bees are said by researchers to be responsible for
pollinating around one-third of the world's crop production.

There is heated debate about what has triggered the widespread decline in bee
populations. Besides chemicals, many experts point to the parasitic varroa mite,
viruses that attack bees and neglect of hives.

After Monday's vote the EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said "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 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European
agriculture, are protected."

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What exactly are Neonicotinoids?

  • Nicotine is not just lethal to humans in the form of cigarettes, but the
    chemical is also extremely toxic to insects
  • Neonicotinoid pesticides are new nicotine-like chemicals and act on the
    nervous systems of insects, with a lower threat to mammals and the environment
    than many older sprays
  • Pesticides made in this way are water soluble, which means they can be
    applied to the soil and taken up by the whole plant - they are called
    "systemic", meaning they turn the plant itself into a poison factory, with
    toxins coming from roots, leaves, stems and pollen
  • Neonicotinoids are often applied as seed treatments, which means coating the
    seeds before planting.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero
said Monday's vote "makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming
scientific, political and public support for a ban.

"Those countries opposing a ban have failed."

An EU vote last month was inconclusive, so the
Commission proposal
went to an appeals committee on Monday - and again the
countries were split on the issue.

Some restrictions are already in place for neonicotinoids in France, Germany,
Italy and Slovenia.

The three neonicotinoids are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.

A report published by
the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA)
in January concluded that the
pesticides posed a "high acute risk" to pollinators, including honeybees.

However, it added that in some cases it was "unable to finalise the
assessments due to shortcomings in the available data".
Intensive lobbying

There was ferocious lobbying both for and against in the run-up to Monday's
vote, the BBC's Chris Morris reports from Brussels.

Nearly three million signatures were collected in support of a ban.
Protesters against neonicotinoids rallied in Westminster on Friday.

Campaign organiser Andrew Pendleton of the environmental group Friends of the
Earth said "leading retailers have already taken action by removing these
pesticides from their shelves and supply chains - the UK government must act

Chemical companies and pesticide manufacturers have been lobbying just as
hard - they argue that the science is inconclusive, and that a ban would harm
food production.

The UK government seems to agree with the industry lobby. It objected to the
proposed ban in its current form. The chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark
Walport, has said restrictions on the use of pesticides should not be introduced
lightly, and the idea of a ban should be dropped.

The EU moratorium will not apply to crops non-attractive to bees, or to
winter cereals.

It will prohibit the sale and use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid

And there will be a ban on the sale of neonicotinoids to amateur growers.

There have been a number of studies showing that the chemicals, made by Bayer
and Syngenta, do have negative impacts on bees.

One study suggested that neonicotinoids affected the abilities of hives to
produce queen bees. More recent research indicated that the pesticides damaged
their brains.

But the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) argues
that these studies were mainly conducted in the laboratory and do not accurately
reflect field conditions.
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