Extract from The Guardian 15/3/13
“A European attempt to ban the world’s most widely used insecticides that have been linked to serious harm in bees has failed.
The European commission proposed a two-year suspension of neonicotinoids after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) deemed their use an unacceptable risk, but major nations including UK and Germany failed to back the plan in a vote on Friday.
The result leaves environmental campaigners, scientists and some politicians bitterly disappointed.
“Britain and Germany have caved in to the industry lobby and refused to ban bee-killing pesticides,” said Iain Keith, at campaign group Avaaz. “Today’s vote flies in the face of science and public opinion and maintains the disastrous chemical armageddon on bees, which are critical for the future of our food.”
The chemical companies that dominate the billion-dollar neonicotinoid market, Bayer and Syngenta, were relieved. Syngenta chief operating officer, John Atkin, said: “We are pleased member states did not support the EC’s shamefully political proposal. Restricting the use of this vital crop protection technology will do nothing to help improve bee health.”
A Bayer spokesman, describing the company as a “responsible corporate citizen” said: “The EC has relied too heavily on the precautionary principle, without taking the principle of proportionality into account.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs defended the UK’s abstention: “Bee health is extremely important but decisions must be based on sound scientific evidence and rushing this through could have serious unintended consequences both for bees and for food production. We are not opposing the EU’s proposals. But as we do not have the evidence yet it is impossible for us to vote either way.”
But Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Stirling and who led one of the key studies showing that neonicotinoids harm bumblebees, told the Guardian: “The independent experts at EFSA spent six months studying all the evidence before concluding there was an unacceptable risk to bees. EFSA and almost everybody else – apart from the manufacturers – agree this class of pesticides were not adequately evaluated in the first place. Yet politicians choose to ignore all of this.”
About three-quarters of global food crops rely on bees and other insects to fertilise their flowers, so the decline of honeybee colonies due to disease, habitat loss and pesticide harm has prompted serious concern.
Conservationists argue that the harm resulting from the loss of bees and the vital pollination service they provide outweighs any farming losses. Almost three-quarters of the UK public backed the proposed ban, according to a poll released on Wednesday, and Avaaz had amassed 2.5m signatures across Europe in support.
The EC proposal was to ban the use of three neonicotinoids from use on corn, oil seed rape, apples, carrots, strawberries and many other flowering crops across the continent for two years, after which the situation would be reviewed.”