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EU bans bee-killing pesticides

April 29, 2013

The European Commission has approved a temporary ban on several pesticides that are harmful to bees. The decision followed a split vote from EU member states.

Bees are seen in their beehive in a garden in Saint-Aignan de Grand Lieu, western France, April 24, 2013. A global decline in the numbers of bees, the reasons for which are baffling scientists, is alarming everyone from farmers to European Union policy makers. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe (FRANCE - Tags: AGRICULTURE ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS)
Image: Reuters

In a vote in Brussels on Monday, EU member states remained divided on a moratorium to ban three pesticides considered harmful to bees. Despite their reservations, the EU Commission supported the slim margin of 15 states that favored the measures.

"Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks," European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg said in a statement following the decision.

"I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion euros ($29 billion) annually to European agriculture, are protected," said Borg.

The EU Commission had proposed the two-year restriction on three neonicotinoids - or pesticides known to have harmful and fatal side effects on the central nervous system of insects. The suggestion to starkly limit their usage in crop dusting stemmed from a report by the European Food Safety Authority which identified the pesticides clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam as posing "high acute risks" to Europe's bee population.

German pharmaceutical company Bayer and Switzerland's Syngenta produce a large share of the chemical agents.

The European Food Safety Authority has raised concerns on a documented decline of the world's bee population over the past decade. Western Europe and southern Europe have reported the highest losses in the EU, according to EFSA's website.

Bees play a vital role in global food production. The majority of crops are pollinated by bees worldwide, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

kms/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)