Brussels -- A European Commission proposal to restrict the use of a pesticide that has been shown to kill bees received the support of a strong majority of EU country representatives today. 23 EU member states voted in favour of a partial ban on the chemical, with only 2 against and 3 abstaining . Greenpeace believes that the proposed ban will not be enough to allow for bee recovery and that only a full long-term ban can help restore the health of bee populations.
A scientific assessment published in May by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that fipronil, a pesticide produced by German chemical company BASF, posed a “high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize” . Three other bee-harming pesticides have been partially banned in Europe following similarly damning reports by EFSA , and examination of these bans were on the agenda of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council yesterday.
EFSA also identified large information gaps in scientific studies on other uses of the pesticide and on other pollinators, making it unable to fully assess risks. Fipronil is already banned for use as a pesticide in over two thirds of EU countries. The Commission's proposal includes loopholes for various crops before flowering, and for uses in greenhouses. These loopholes mean that the pesticide will remain in the soils and environment.
Greenpeace ecological farming campaigner Herman van Bekkem said: “The evidence that is available from EFSA firmly points to the need for a full precautionary ban on this bee killing pesticide. While Fipronil is already banned in many EU countries, bees don’t stop at national borders. To stop their decline, the Commission must ban this pesticide and swiftly develop a comprehensive plan against the wider chemical assault that pollinators such as bees face every day.”
A Greenpeace report on the chemical threats facing bees in Europe identified seven pesticides, including fipronil, that are affecting the health of pollinators . Bees and other pollinators play a crucial role in food production. Around a third of the world’s food crops directly depend on natural pollination from bees and other animals . Greenpeace believes that only lower intensity ecological farming practices, including crop rotation and natural pest control, can remove the chemical and other threats that are contributing to bee decline.