Business & Policy Environmental Policy EU Declares Total Ban on Bee-Harming Pesticides By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated October 11, 2018 CC BY 2.0. Thijs van der Weide/Pexels Share Twitter Pinterest Email Business & Policy Corporate Responsibility Environmental Policy Economics Food Issues Neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides, will be banned for use in fields within six months. So this is crazy, but when you douse fields with strong chemicals designed to kill insects, bees get sick and die too. Isn't that strange? With so many pesticides being used in big agriculture, is it any wonder that our beleaguered pollinators have been dying at such an alarming rate? But now the bees in the European Union are getting a much deserved break, thanks to a ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations. Neonicotinoids are nerve agents that are great at killing and harming insects, including bees; they've been shown to damage memory and reduce queen numbers, among other deleterious imapcts. The ban will be enacted by the end of the year, after which these dastardly pesticides will only be allowed in closed greenhouses. As Damian Carrington at The Guardian reports, the EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013. But further legislation came about after a major report was published by the EU’s scientific risk assessors. The research found that the pesticides taint soil and water, which leads to the contamination of wildflowers and later crops. Thus, any outside use at all leads to a high risk to both honeybees and wild bees. A recent study has gone so far as to find contamination by neonicotinoids on honey samples from around the world. While pesticide makers and some agriculture groups say that the measure is overly cautious and productivity could suffer; others were quick to dismiss those concerns. The ban received great vocal support, inspiring nearly 5 million signatures on a petition at the activism and campaign site, Avaaz. "We call on you to immediately ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides," notes the petition. "The catastrophic demise of bee colonies could put our whole food chain in danger. If you act urgently with precaution now, we could save bees from extinction." “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood,” UK environment secretary Michael Gove told the Guardian. “I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.” Meanwhile, the United States EPA is considering an application by agrochemical giant Syngenta to dramatically escalate the use of the harmful neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamethoxam. If approved, notes The Center for Biological Diversity, the application would allow the highly toxic pesticide to be sprayed directly on 165 million acres of wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, alfalfa, rice and potato.