EU to ban bee-harming pesticides despite split vote
THE European Commission will temporarily restrict the use of three of the world's most widely used pesticides over fears they harm bees, after EU governments failed to reach agreement on the issue, a Commission source said.
In a vote, EU officials could not decide whether to impose a two-year ban - with some exceptions - on a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, produced mainly by Germany's Bayer and Switzerland's Syngenta.
The Commission proposed the ban in January after EU scientists said the chemicals posed an acute risk to honeybees, which pollinate many of the crops grown commercially in Europe. It said it would go ahead with partial restrictions anyway.
Pesticide manufacturers and some scientists say no link has been proven between the use of neonicotinoids and a sharp decline in bee numbers in Europe in recent years - a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder".
In total, 15 EU countries voted in favour - two more than the last time governments voted on the issue in March - but they failed to reach the weighted majority needed to adopt the ban outright, meaning the decision passed to the Commission.
"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," EU health commissioner Tonio Borg said after the vote.
The ban will apply to the use of neonicotinoids on all crops except winter cereals and plants not attractive to bees, such as sugar beet. It would apply from December 1, 2013 - five months later than originally proposed by the Commission.