Bumble Bee covered with Pollen Photo: Smudge 9000

EU passed near-total ban on neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops

April 27th, 2018

EU governments passed a near-total ban earlier this morning of the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops due to their impact on pollinators.

Member States endorsed the European Commission’s proposals to completely ban the outdoor uses of three active substances – clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam.

Two other neonicotinoids – acetamiprid and thiacloprid – are deemed to be less of a threat to bees and are not included in the ban, despite concerns from some conservation groups and the results of some recent studies.

The use of pesticides and treated seeds containing the three substances were severely restricted by the Commission in 2013. The new regulations are set to be adopted by the European Commission in the coming weeks.

Today’s decision comes after the latest scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops presents a risk to wild bees and honeybee.

A vote on the Commission’s proposal was originally planned for December 2017, but it was postponed in order to wait for the EFSA’s peer review study released last month.

The EFSA assessment covered both wild bees and honeybees and considered more than 1,500 studies on the impacts of the three types of neonicotinoids now set to be banned.

Nearby plants and soil can also become contaminated as pesticide residue is carried away from the field by the wind, the study found.

In some cases, the study states, pesticides can linger and accumulate in the soil and get accumulated in the pollen and nectar of the grown plant.

In a tweet this morning, the Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said that the decision is “vital” for biodiversity, food production, and the environment.

Sandra Bell, bee campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said that the “comprehensive” ban is a “tremendous victory” for our bees and the wider environment.

She urged the European Commission to now focus on developing a “strong pollinator initiative” to boost bee-friendly habitat and helps farmers cut pesticide-use.

“Many farmers are already successfully growing crops without neonicotinoids. But too many other damaging chemicals and practices are still used,” she warned.

She said that there needs to be a “radical change” to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to support farmers to “farm with nature – not against it”.

The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) carried out a survey of behavioural changes by farmers in the wake of the 2013 restrictions.

The survey concluded that farmers generally relied on alternative seed treatments or more soil and liquid fertilizer treatments in the first growing season after the restrictions took effect.

Further study is required to assess the effectiveness and sustainability of these alternatives compared with the restricted insecticides, the JRC stated.

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