Today EU Member States endorsed the Commission's proposal to completely ban the outdoor agricultural uses of the three neonicotinoids.
Neonicotinoid insecticides were introduced in the late 1990s and their use escalated rapidly in the 2000’s to the point where they became the worlds most commonly used insecticides. Concerns about the impact of neonicotinoids on wild bees and aquatic life were raised in a 2009 Buglife scientific review that recommended a ban on the insecticides until their safety could be established.
Over the next few years scientists found increasing evidence that neonicotinoids were harmful to wild bees, butterflies and aquatic life. A partial ban on flowering crops was introduced by the EC in 2013 and this new decision expands the reach of the ban to all outdoor uses. In late 2017 Michael Gove reversed the UK’s opposition to a neonicotinoid ban.
Today’s ban may represent a turning point for the toxins, with the USA currently undertaking a review and other countries with pesticide regulation processes will be under pressure to achieve the EU’s levels of environmental protection.
Even in the EU neonicotinoid pollution may continue to harm wildlife, a Buglife report last year identified that half of rivers and lakes monitored in England were chronically polluted with neonicotinoids, and that alongside agricultural pollution a significant source was pet flea treatments. In addition it is well known that greenhouse use can cause water pollution. Both use on pets and in greenhouses will be allowed to continue for the moment.
“Today is a red letter day for the continent’s pollinators, we salute and thank all of the organisations, members of the public and politicians who have stood up for the bees and secured this much needed decision. This has been a long haul, arguably the ban should have come in years ago, but the NFU and pesticide industry have been wholly obstructive and have managed, mainly by use of misleading propaganda, to sustain the harm to bees and other wildlife for several years.” Said Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife.
Campaigners are still keen that guidance on improving the EU pesticide approval process produced by the scientific advisory body EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) are rapidly adopted by EU Member States so that they stop approving new insecticides suspected of being similarly harmful to bees.
Reports indicate that the United Kingdom, France, Slovenia, Germany, Malta, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Estonia, Portugal, Spain voted in favour of a ban. While Romania, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Hungary have voted against it and , Belgium, Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland abstained.