Bee Concerns Drive EU Restriction of Pesticides

     (CN) – Restriction of pesticides believed to cause bee colony collapse will move ahead, despite a lack of support from EU member states, the European Commission vowed.
     Regulators proposed restrictions on three neonicotinoid pesticides – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam – after the European Food Safety Authority published findings in January linking the poisons to the honey bee populations diminishing worldwide.
     They sought to ban the use of neonicotinoids on plants that bees find attractive, as well as in seed treatment, granular soil application and cereal grains. EU-27 members failed, however, to reach a qualified majority either for or against the restriction in a March 15 preliminary meeting.
     In that vote, 13 member states voted to support the commission’s ban on neonicotinoids, while nine member states opposed and five abstained. A subsequent appeal brought only marginally better results in that committee, according to a commission statement .
     “Although a majority of member states now supports our proposal, the necessary qualified majority was not reached. The decision now lies with the commission,” Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg said. “Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority, the commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks.”
     Borg added: “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion euros annually to European agriculture, are protected.”
     Colony collapse disorder has baffled and alarmed farmers and scientists since 2006. Worker bees abandon hives and vanish en masse, leaving behind the queen and unhatched brood, food and honey – and the hive eventually dies.
     In the years since beekeepers first reported the catastrophic losses, hives across the United States have seen yearly declines averaging 35 percent. A 2010 U.S. Department of Agriculture report blames the collapses on a combination of environmental stressors that leave worker bees susceptible to viruses, parasites, mites and other pathogens.
     Several groups in the U.S. filed suit against the EPA in March, claiming the agency turns a blind eye to scientific data linking neonicotinoids and bee deaths as well as deliberate misuse of the poisons by farmers.
     The groups also complain that the EPA has only ever issued conditional approval for the poisons – manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta – and does not plan to make its final decision until 2018.
     The National Resources Defense Council’s website lists 42 crops grown in the U.S. that require bees for pollination.
     “The list of crops that simply won’t grow without honey bees is a long one: apples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, pumpkins, carrots, avocados, almonds … and it goes on,” the website states. “Without bees to pollinate many of our favorite fruits and vegetables, the United States could lose $15 billion worth of crops – not to mention what it would do to your diet.”
     The European Commission said its restrictions on the use of the three pesticides take effect on Dec. 1.

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