Using the precautionary principle, Europe's regulators have taken aggressive action to protect bee health. The proposals come on the heels of a scientific report published by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) which found that the scientific evidence available does not establish a sufficient margin of safety for bees, a critical link in the areas of both food production and environmental health.
Bayer's imidacloprid and clothianidin, and Syngenta's thiamethoxam will be banned, subject to re-evaluation after two years, if EU Member States approve a measure put forward this week by the European Commission.
Bayer ReactsBayer reacted to the EFSA report by warning against "over-interpretation of the precautionary principle," according to reports in the Guardian. But the rapid and unexplained decline in bee populations has forced regulators' hand.
Recent studies have shown that in the nests of bees exposed to the neonicotinoid pesticides, 85% fewer queens are produced. Additionally, double the number of bees disappeared from the nest, apparently losing their way after foraging.
The pesticide ban will apply only to crops that attract bees, such as oilseed rape, corn and sunflowers. Use on winter wheat has been exempted because bees are not active during the period of pesticide application. If industry analysis proves correct, European farmers will suffer hundreds of millions of euros in lost production due to the unavailability of these pesticides.
Let the Experiment BeginWhile other causes of bee population decline cannot be ruled out, the proposal to ban these pesticides will become, in effect, a significant experiment in eliminating a key suspected threat to bees to allow scientists to evaluate the consequences of the ban, both in food productivity and in the impact on bee populations critical to food production.
Simultaneously, the proposed regulation will further test Europe's commitment to forcing corporations to prove the safety of their products if they want to keep the right to sell them.