EU votes for a total ban on bee-harming insecticides

Countries across the European Union – including the UK – vote to ban the outdoor use of three bee-harming pesticides

The EU has agreed to ban a group of insecticides that have been linked to a dramatic reduction in bee numbers.

Experts from the body’s 28 states agreed on Friday to ban the use of three toxic neonicotinoids, six years after the European Food Safety Authority concluded that the chemicals were harmful to bees. The outdoor application of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam – the world’s most widely used insecticides – will be banned from all fields in EU member states within six months.

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“This is a major victory for science, common sense and our under-threat bees. The evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides pose a threat to our bees is overwhelming,” said Emi Murphy, a campaigner for bees at Friends of the Earth.

The chemicals have been linked to large-scale population extinctions in bees and are known to impact their learning and memory. In February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors, Efsa, found that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This means that the pesticides appear on wildflowers and succeeding crops as well as the original crop. Use of the chemicals will still be permitted in greenhouses.

This is a major victory for science, common sense and our under-threat bees

The ban on the three main neonicotinoids has widespread public support: almost 5 million people signed a petition from campaign group Avaaz supporting their prohibition.

Friends of the Earth, just one campaign group that welcomed the ban, said it represents a ‘historic turning point’ for the welfare of bees and pollinators. But a spokesperson added that there is still a long way to go before their future is safe.

Image: Josephine Amalie Paysen

“Neonicotinoids are not the only threat bees face – ministers must urgently step up efforts to boost nature, protect wildlife-friendly habitats and tackle over-reliance on pesticides in their post-Brexit farming policy,” read a statement.

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