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'Victory for bees': European Union approves ban on three pesticides that kill them

Emmanuel Dunand, AFP | Activists stage a demonstration to call upon European member states to protect the bees by voting a full ban on bee-killing pesticides, in front of the European Commission in Brussels on April 27, 2018.

EU countries voted on Friday for a near-total ban on insecticides blamed for killing off bee populations, in what campaigners called a “beacon of hope” for the winged insects.


Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world’s major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from “colony collapse disorder”, a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus or a combination of these factors.

The 28 European Union member states approved a ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides after the European food safety agency said in February that most uses of the chemicals posed a risk to honey bees and wild bees.

Campaigners dressed in black and yellow bee suits rallied outside the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels ahead of the vote for a ban on three key pesticide chemicals.

FRANCE 24's Pierre Benazet reports

'We urgently need to end this plague'

EU Environment Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said he was “happy that member states voted in favour of our proposal” to restrict the chemicals, and he tweeted a picture of the activists.

A Commission statement said EU states had “endorsed a proposal by the European Commission to further restrict the use of three active substances... for which a scientific review concluded that their outdoor use harms bees”.

The pesticides – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – are based on the chemical structure of nicotine and attack the nervous systems of insect pests.

“The mortality rate of bees, which play a major role in pollination and thus in biodiversity, has reached 80 percent in some parts of Europe, particularly because of the use of these pesticides,” Éric Andrieu, president of the European Parliament’s commission on pesticides, told FRANCE 24. “That’s why we urgently need to put an end to this plague.

‘Victory for bees’

Brussels restricted the pesticides use in 2013 as part of efforts to protect bees and it commissioned a deeper report into their effects, gathering all available studies on the issue.

Environmental groups, which have long campaigned for a ban on neonicotinoids, were abuzz about the decision.

“This comprehensive neonicotinoid ban, covering all outdoor crops, is a tremendous victory for our bees and the wider environment,’ said Sandra Bell, bee campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

The Avaaz campaign group said that “banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees”.

“Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can’t live with these chemicals and we can’t live without,” said Avaaz senior campaigner Antonia Staats.

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Unlike contact pesticides – which remain on the surface of foliage – neonicotinoids are absorbed by the plant from the seed phase and transported to leaves, flowers, roots and stems.

They have been widely used over the last 20 years, and were designed to control sap-feeding insects such as aphids and root-feeding grubs.

Past studies have found neonicotinoids can cause bees to become disorientated such that they cannot find their way back to the hive, and lower their resistance to disease.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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