Farm Ireland

Monday 22 April 2019

EU puts pesticides' vote on hold for two months

Three-quarters of the world's food crops rely on pollination.
Three-quarters of the world's food crops rely on pollination.

Sarah Collins

The EU has delayed a decision on whether to impose further restrictions on bee-harming pesticides for two months.

Chemicals known as neonicotinoids already face restrictions within the EU, but the bloc is to clamp down further after new evidence that they pose a risk to wild bees and honeybees.

However, EU experts discussed but did not make a decision at a meeting on Friday.

Another discussion and possible vote is scheduled for the second half of May.

MEPs wrote to Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of the March 23 meeting, warning him against delaying a vote.

"Further delay in taking the decision will result in continued exposure of bees and other pollinators to toxins that kill them, with severe consequences for food production, particularly honey," said the letter, signed by a cross-party group of parliamentarians.

The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, said in February that three neonicotinoids - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam - that there was a "high risk" associated with all outdoor uses of the three substances, and that "overall these neonicotinoids represent a risk to bees".

The three chemicals have been banned for use on selected crops in the EU, such as oilseed rape, since 2013. Last year, the Commission suggested the chemicals be banned everywhere except greenhouses.

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'Neonics' act on insects' central nervous systems and have been linked to worldwide declines in honey bee numbers.

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 $235-577bn 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.

Clothianidin is produced by Germany's Bayer CropScience, whose proposed merger with US agri-chemical giant Monsanto was last week approved by the Commission, subject to conditions.

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

The battle over neonicotinoids comes hot on the heels of the long saga on the renewal of glyphosate's EU licence, which has been approved for a further five years.

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