Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has hailed today's confirmation that the European Commission will be taking action against pesticides shown by scientific studies to be a major cause of bee mortality.
In today's meeting of the Commission's Appeals Committee, no qualified majority was reached against the proposed ban on three neonicotinoids thus allowing the Commission to go ahead and impose restrictions, applicable from 1 December 2013. Fifteen Member States voted for the ban, but the UK did not support the measures.
Under the Commission's proposals, farmers would no longer be able to use pesticides containing clothianidin, thiamethoxam or imidacloprid on flowering crops (e.g. maize, rape seed & sunflower) & cereals planted in spring or summer (due to bee exposure to dust) for 2 years followed by a review.
The proposals follow an increasingly large body of evidence, including an official assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (on whose recommendations the Commission's proposals were directly based) and studies from researchers at institutions such as Royal Holloway and the University of Stirling, showing that both acute and chronic doses of the three pesticides cause increased mortality and impaired foraging ability of honey bees, through attacking the bees' nervous system. The EFSA assessment demonstrated exposure through nectar and pollen, dust and guttation fluids.
Speaking after the decision, Alyn said:
"I've consistently called for better inputs from science into political decision-making, so I'm pleased that in this case European policy is very much following the pattern of what we're discovering about the impacts of neonicotinoids on bee health.
"Bees pollinate three-quarters of all crops, so our agricultural security as well as biodiversity and environmental well-being depend on getting this right. We should remember that the Commission's proposals are in no way disproportionate, based as they are on the recommendations of the EU's official scientific advice body EFSA, and a solid collection of peer-reviewed studies, including from Scottish researchers.
"If the precautionary principle is to mean anything, we can't afford to wait until bee populations collapse for the "final proof" that pesticides affect bee health. There's been a lot of corporate propaganda deliberately designed to obfuscate and confuse the issue, stemming from clear vested interests, and I'm pleased that the Commission and 15 Member States have stood up to this pressure. I'm disappointed that the UK was not one of them.
"Obviously, further research will continue, and I keep an open mind about altering the regulatory framework based on new evidence, but at this moment we've taken the right decision."