The European Commission will now be able to restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers, despite a split among EU states on the issue. The pesticides which contain Neonicotinoid chemicals are believed to harm bees, and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollination. Sadly the UK environment minister, Owen Paterson, voted against the ban. Despite pressure from the giant chemical companies such as Syngenta and Bayer who say the science is inconclusive, enough other countries voted in favour and the vote was won – although it was close.
In the UK, 38 Degrees orchestrated a campaign that saw over 300,000 people signing the petition to ban these pesticides and over 40,000 people emailed MPs. In the environment minister’s constituency, in North Shropshire, over 50 local 38 Degrees members came face to face with him to deliver the petition and demand he changed his mind. Hundreds of 38 Degrees members joined up with a host of other campaign organisations to hold a ‘March of the Beekeepers’ in Parliament square and Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said Monday’s vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban. The environment minister, Lord de Mauley, countered, saying: “Having a healthy bee population is a top priority for us but we did not support the proposal because our scientific evidence doesn’t support it. We will now work with farmers to cope with the consequences as a ban will carry significant costs for them.”
The European Commission will now have the option to impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids – and the UK cannot opt out. The three neonicotinoids are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam. A report published by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded that the pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honeybees. That said, they are probably not the only factor working against bees – the varroa mite has been a serious ongoing problem for bees and beekeepers, and pollution and climate change present challenges too – last year’s soaking wet British summer had a near catastrophic effect on many colonies. But lest we forget – once the bees have gone – humans have only a couple of years left ……….