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Commission acts on bee-killing pesticides but stops short of complete ban

31 January 2013
by greenpeace -- last modified 01 February 2013

The European Commission will today ask EU member state representatives to consider imposing restrictions on certain pesticides because of their harmful effects on bees. Greenpeace welcomes the move by the Commission, which follows the publication of several scientific studies linking the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to the disappearance of bees.


Earlier this month, three opinions by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) [1] identified significant risks to bees from the three most common neonicotinoids when used to coat seeds of certain crops, including sunflowers, rapeseed, cotton and maize [2]. However, the Authority warned that it was unable to determine the risks of many other uses in conjunction with other crops, where abundant 'data gaps' existed. The Commission's discussion paper acknowledges the evidence collected by EFSA, but stops short of recommending a precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoids with all crops where EFSA could not assess risks.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: "The Commission's plan is a welcome first step to address the harmful effects of pesticides on bees. However, the Commission has stopped short of recommending a wider precautionary ban covering the use of neonicotinoids in cases where EFSA identified a crucial data gap. Decisive action is needed to protect our natural environment and Europe's food production, which depends largely on pollinators like bees."

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 84% of the main 264 crops cultivated in Europe rely on animal pollination, chiefly by bees, while the great majority of wild plants (about 90%) rely on bee pollination [4]. Neonicotinoids are already subject to partial bans in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. After several years, the farming industry's claims that neonicotinoids are needed to prevent crop losses remain unfounded.

Greenpeace sustainable agriculture campaigner Matthias W├╝thrich said:  "In many parts of Europe bee populations are declining rapidly. A ban on a few hazardous pesticides is only a very limited safeguard. The disappearance of bees is just a symptom of a failed agricultural system based on the intensive use of chemicals, serving the interest of powerful corporations like Bayer and Syngenta. The only solution is a paradigm shift to sustainable agriculture and modern eco-farming practices."

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.

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