Shedding Light in the Darkness

The European Union Bans Bee-Harming Neonicotinoids

beesThe European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees. The ban will begin by the end of 2018

In February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors (Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, welcomed Friday’s vote: “The commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from Efsa. Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.”

Around 5 million people signed a petition from campaign group Avaaz. “Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees,” said Antonia Staats at Avaaz. “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.”

“European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” said Graeme Taylor, at the European Crop Protection Association.

Last December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released multiple scientific assessments that found neonicotinoid pesticides can kill and harm birds of all sizes.

Also in December the EPA announced it will consider allowing the bee-killing pesticide thiamethoxam to be sprayed on the most widely grown crops in the United States. The application, if approved, would allow the highly toxic pesticide to be sprayed directly on 165 million acres of wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, alfalfa, rice and potato. The proposal to dramatically escalate use of the harmful neonicotinoid pesticide was made by the agrochemical giant Syngenta.

The proposal comes on the heels of a University of San Diego California study that found neonicotinoids and pesticides from intensive agriculture are 50 percent more harmful to bees than scientists previously thought.

Thiamethoxam is a type of neonicotinoid, which paralyze and kill bees and other pollinating insects by first attacking their central nervous system.

The EPA is currently in the process of reanalyzing neonic impacts to humans and the environment and says it will decide whether to reapprove their use by the end of 2018.

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