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EU confirms neonicotinoid seed treatment ban

Farmers in the UK will be suspended from using neonicotinoid seed treatments because of their ‘ill-effects’ on bee populations following a vote in the European Parliament today (Monday).

Olivia   Midgley

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Olivia   Midgley
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EU sources said the vote was supported by most nations, but did not reach the required majority under EU voting rules.

 

However, as the European Commission previously stated, the decision would be in their hands if a majority was not reached.

 

Under the proposals put forward by the European Commission earlier this year, the use of three neonicotinoid products - imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin – will be suspended.

 

Health Comissioner Tonio Borg said: “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

 

Fifteen member states supported the two-year restriction, eight, including the UK, voted against and four abstained during the appeal committee vote.

 

The restrictions will apply from December 1, 2013 and not July 1 as originally planned.

 

Exemptions may be for use on greenhouse crops and foliar use after flowering. The Commission accepted crops harvested before they flower are not considered attractive to bees.

 

NFU Scotland’s policy manager for environment and land use, Andrew Bauer, said: “Whilst NFU Scotland remains convinced that more field-based research on neonicotinoids and bee health is essential, we recognise the Commission will now bring in its restrictions before the end of this year.

 

“For those Scottish growers affected by the decision, there is a window of opportunity between now and December 1, 2013 when they can seek professional advice and consider any changes that they may need to make to their cropping plans.”

 

Defra said there would be no derogations for individual member states and the UK would be forced to comply.

 

Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said it was a ‘victory for common sense’.

 

He said: “Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators.”

 

Welcoming the news, RSPB policy officer Ellie Crane said it is vital the next two years are ‘used wisely to fill in the evidence gaps and monitor the impacts of the ban - including the use of alternative pesticides - on populations of pollinating insects’.

 

Over recent months leading home and garden retailers, including B&Q, Homebase, Wyevale and Dobbies have removed products containing the three neonicotinoid insecticides from their shelves.

 

Supermarket Waitrose also imposed a ban on suppliers’ using the products on any produce destined for the store.

 

The new approach will also be rolled out progressively to commodity crops such as oil seed rape on the Waitrose Farm at Leckford in Hampshire and ‘as soon as practicable’ to other areas of the arable sector which supply Waitrose.

 

Defra secretary Owen Paterson has always maintained more field research must be completed before a science-based decision can be made.

 

Last month a Defra assessment concluded the available evidence was not sufficient to warrant a change in the law on use of this class of insecticide.

 

Earlier this year European Food Safety Agency (Efsa) report found the chemicals, which are used to treat seeds prior to sowing in the battle against insects such as aphids, pose a ‘high risk’ to honey bees from crops producing nectar and pollen.

 

However, Efsa later admitted the evidence its findings were based on was flawed.

 

Papers submitted to Ministers and seen by Farmers Guardian showed other factors including disease, nosemosis, starvation, mismanagement and weather conditions were far bigger threats to bees.


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