European Union to ban bee-killing pesticides

Dave Goulson, professor of biology at the University of Sussex, said there was abundant evidence that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees, and growing evidence they were involved in declines of butterflies, aquatic insects and insect-eating birds.

The move comes five years the European Union brought in a partial ban on three other pesticides - imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam - but only applied it crops such as corn, wheat, barley oats and oil seed rape.

They are crucial to our ability to put food on the table each day as pollinators of plants, but the humble bumble bee and other bee species are facing a bleak future if things continue as they have. As a result, neonicotinoid pesticides can then appear in wildflowers or succeeding crops in fields, while a global study of honey samples even revealed contamination by neonicotinoids - sometimes at worrying "neuroactive levels".

Welcoming today's vote to ban the substances, the EU's Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said, "Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment".

Antonia Staats, senior campaigner at Avaaz, which had led a petition backed by five million signatures to ban the chemicals, said: "Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees".

The proposed neonicotinoid ban had gained widespread public support.

"Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can't live with these chemicals and we can't live without bees". It is however, incumbent on ministers and officials in the European Union and the United Kingdom to think about the real world business impacts of these decisions, and work with us to provide the necessary support for farmers who need to find ways to combat pests, control costs and produce food efficiently. Meanwhile, additional evidence suggested that neonics could also accumulate in soil, affecting crops - and the bees that rely on them - for generations, Nature reported.

"The current New Zealand rules include not spraying insecticides in close proximity to bee hives or crops with budding or flowering plants where bees may gather and feed. We can not afford to put our pollinator populations at risk". The research found that the type of application of the pesticides didn't matter-any outdoor use was found to pose a threat to honeybee colony survival.

Sandra Bell, bee campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said that the "comprehensive" ban is a "tremendous victory" for our bees and the wider environment.

  • Jon Douglas