Great news! After months of campaigning by environmentalists, the European Commission has taken action to protect bees by restricting the use of harmful chemicals in pesticides.
Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban and, even though the vote was split, the Commission imposed a two-year restriction on three neonicotinoids, which research has shown to harm bees – and the UK cannot opt out.
The ban means neonicotinoids will not be used on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators, there will be a ban on the sale of neonicotinoids to amateur growers.
The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 December this year. After today’s vote, EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”
The UK was among eight countries that voted against the ban, arguing that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. Four nations also abstained. But Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said the vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban. Those countries opposing a ban have failed.”
A report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded the pesticides posed “a high risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.
There was intensive lobbying in the run-up to Monday’s vote. Protesters against neonicotinoids rallied in Westminster on Friday and campaign organiser Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said “leading retailers have already taken action by removing these pesticides from their shelves and supply chains – the UK government must act too”.