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Wednesday 18 July 2018

Brussels moves a step closer to total ban on bee-harming chemicals

Bees. (Stock Photo)
Bees. (Stock Photo)

The EU is moving closer to a full-scale ban on bee-harming pesticides.

Neonicotinoids, or 'neonics', are pesticides with a chemical structure similar to nicotine, and which act on insects' central nervous systems.

They have been linked to worldwide declines in honey bee numbers, which the UN says could threaten global food supplies.

Since 2013, three neonics - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam - have been banned for use on selected crops in the EU, such as oilseed rape.

The EU has suggested the chemicals be banned everywhere except greenhouses, with the EU's food safety authority due to publish an updated risk assessment in February.

The head of EFSA's pesticides unit said the risk assessment has proven "very complex" and has "generated a very large volume of additional information". EFSA is now reviewing the results with national pesticide experts.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation says three-quarters of the world's food crops rely on pollination by insects and animals, and is worth between 235 and 577 billion US dollars a year to food producers.

EU-funded research shows that bee mortality rates in the bloc have been rising, and are highest in the UK, Sweden, Finland, Poland, France and Germany.

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UK environment secretary Michael Gove said this month that the UK would support a neonic ban even after Brexit. Clothianidin is produced by Germany's Bayer CropScience, whose proposed merger with US agri-chemical giant Monsanto is currently subject to an EU competition probe.

Thiamethoxam is manufactured by Swiss agri-business firm Syngenta, which recently merged with ChemChina.

Meanwhile, the EU will fight another battle over contested weedkiller glyphosate next week. Anti-glyphosate activists are in Brussels this week to promote an EU-wide petition to ban the chemical, which has garnered over a million signatures.

The Commission will next week appeal an inconclusive vote on its latest proposal to renew the chemical's EU licence for five years.

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