The European Commission will temporarily restrict the use of three of the world's most widely used pesticides over fears they harm bees, after EU governments failed to reach agreement on the issue, a Commission source said on Monday (April 29).
In a vote on Monday, EU governments officials failed to decide whether or not to impose a two-year ban on the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which are chiefly produced by Germany's Bayer and Switzerland's Syngenta .
The Commission proposed the ban in January after EU scientists said the chemicals posed an acute risk to honeybees, which pollinate many of the crops grown commercially in Europe. It said it would go ahead with partial restrictions anyway.
Outside the European Commission building 'Save the bees' activists encouraged the ban on the pesticides. Dressed in beekeeping suits and standing under a giant bee balloon, the demonstrators held banners reading 'EU: Save our bees' and chanted slogans.
Pesticide manufacturers and some scientists say no link has been proven between the use of neonicotinoids and the sharp decline in bee numbers in Europe in recent years - a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder".
In total, 15 EU countries voted in favour -- two more than the last time governments voted on the issue in March -- but they failed to reach the weighted majority needed to adopt the ban outright, meaning the decision passed to the Commission.
"Following today's discussion in the appeal committee, the proposal to restrict the use of these three substances has the support of the majority of member states and the Commission will take a decision very soon to make sure that this will be adopted," EU Commission Spokesperson, Roger Waite said.
The ban will apply to the use of neonicotinoids on all crops except winter cereals and plants not attractive to bees, such as sugar beet. It would come into effect from December 1, 2013 - five months later than originally proposed by the Commission.
"The mortality of the bees, the high mortality of the bees in Belgium, or in Europe, is the result of the pesticides going into the nectar of the plants and being absorbed by the bees. The result is that these pesticides destroy their sense of orientation in the brain, they cannot return to the bee hive when they die," said Non-Professionnal Beekeeper, Liliane Van Remoortere.
Basel-based Syngenta criticised the Commission's decision, blaming declining bee numbers on habitat loss and diseases carried by parasites such as the Varroa mite.
The ban will hit sales of Syngenta's popular Cruiser seed treatments, widely used to protect crops such as rapeseed and maize from aphids and other pests.
Syngenta and Bayer say research shows a neonicotinoid ban could cost Europe billions of euros in lost crop yields.
Presented by Adam Justice