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Neonicotinoids. Slow Food Demands Ban on Bee Killers

The Member States of the EU did not achieve on the 15th of March a decision for the ban of three widely used insecticides directly linked to bee losses. 13 Member States voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal, i.e. for the ban of the three neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Unfortunately, 5 Member States abstained and 9 opposed to the proposal, launching a new period of negotiation. In the meanwhile, these pesticides continue on the market. The European Beekeeping Coordination is extremely disappointed with the outcome of the vote.

What is the EU waiting for in order to protect ourselves from massive bee-killing pesticides? The European legislation states that pesticides can be withdrawn of the market if science shows that they create unacceptable effects on bees and impact biodiversity and the ecosystem.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. That is why, it seems that 14 Member States would rely more on the arguments provided by the pesticide industry than those provided by the scientific advisor of the Commission.

Large agro-industrial companies such as Syngenta requested that the European Commission retract its proposal to restrict the use of neonicotinoid technology after revealing that the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) report on the risks to bees from their use was fundamentally flawed.


As announced by the European Commission, a ban on three nenicotinoids (NNI) – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam was submitted on Friday (15 March) to Member States’ experts on the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health / Pesticide residues, announced HorticultureWeek.



This vote is the Commission’s response to the publication by EFSA of a report which identified “high acute risks” for bees as regards exposure to dust in several crops such as maize, cereals and sunflower, to residue in pollen and nectar in crops like oilseed rape and sunflower and to guttation in maize.


What the Commission submitted to Member States was as follows :


1) amend the conditions of approval of the 3 NNI in order to restrict the use only to crops non attractive to bees and to winter cereals (as dust exposure during autumn is not considered a major issue).


2) prohibit the sale and use of “seeds treated” with plant protection products containing these active substances(provision not to apply to treated seeds of plants non attractive to bees and to treated seeds of winter cereals).


3) both measures referred to in points 1) and 2) to be implemented at the latest by 1 July 2013 (thus not affecting the forthcoming sowing season for maize).


4) prohibit the sale and use to “amateurs”. Only professional uses to remain allowed.


5) To review of both measures by the Commission after two years.


Commission to review the conditions of approval of the three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiametoxam and imidacloprid) – as soon as new information is available – to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.


6) Exceptions to be limited to the possibility to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses at any time and in open field only after flowering.


Result of the vote:


The Commission put the text to the vote and no qualified majority was reached either in favor or against the text (the Commission will not detail individual Member States’ votes).


In a statement the Commission said it takes note of the Member States’ response to its proposal but remains committed to ambitious and proportionate legislative measures.

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 this compromise period.

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

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