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March 25, 2023

EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

The European Commission will restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths by researchers, despite a split among EU states on the issue, BBC reports. There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations. Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.  But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data. Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban – not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids – and the UK cannot opt out.  The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 July this year. The UK did not support a ban – it argues that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four abstained. Wild species such as honey bees are said by researchers to be responsible for pollinating around one-third of the world’s crop production.

There is heated debate about what has triggered the widespread decline in bee populations. Besides chemicals, many experts point to the parasitic varroa mite, viruses that attack bees and neglect of hives. After Monday’s vote the EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said “the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks”. “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over EUR 22bln annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

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