Neonicotinoids: Commission moves to legislate to protect bees

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The European Commission has said it will take legislative action to protect honey bees from the effects of neonicotinoids but has ruled out a complete ban.

The move comes after a report on three popular neonicotinoids produced by Syngenta and Bayer by European food safety watchdog EFSA suggested the pesticides were harmful to bees.

Some individual member states already place restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, but health commissioner Tonio Borg told the EU agriculture this afternoon EFSA’s concerns showed bees now needed to be given the same level of protection across the EU.

The EC would therefore propose a set of “ambitious yet but proportionate legislative measures” on neonicotinoid use in the EU, which would be presented at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health later this week, Borg said.

Borg did not specify exactly how the EC would propose to restrict neonicotinoid use but said a total ban was not on the cards. “In fact, a number of safe uses of these substances as regards bees have been identified by EFSA. A total ban would not therefore be justified,” he said.

He added EFSA would finalise new risk assessment guidance on neonicotinoids and bees in May this year.

Environmental campaigners have long warned that neonicotinoids threaten bee populations, but Syngenta and Bayer have challenged the recent EFSA report. A spokesman for Syngenta was reported as saying EFSA’s report was the result of political pressure and hurried and inadequate risk assessment, while Bayer has argued bee populations are in decline for a number of reasons, not necessarily neonicotinoids.

Borg said the health of the European bee population was of paramount importance. “Whilst the health of ourbees may be threatened by other factors, we must take decisive action wherever appropriate,” he added.

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