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EU pushes ban on pesticides linked to bee downfall

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen. Photo by: Jon Sullivan.
Honey bee (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen. Photo by: Jon Sullivan.

Following a flood of damning research on the longterm impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee colonies, the EU is proposing a two year ban on the popular pesticides for crops that attract bees, such as corn, sunflower, oil seed rape, cotton. The proposal comes shortly after European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report that found neonicotinoid pesticides posed a “number of risks” to bees.

Last year a number of high-profile studies found significant impact on bee colonies from neonicotinoid pesticides, including fewer queens and bees losing their way during foraging. One study found that bees fed with pesticide-laced high fructose corn syrup resulted in the complete collapse 15 out of the 16 hives within 23 weeks. Many scientists now believe that neonicotinoid pesticides may be a primary driver behind Colony Collapse Disorder, which has hit bee populations across the U.S. and Europe.

However, Bayer, one of the largest producers of the neonicotinoid pesticides, staunchly defends their chemicals and has called the proposed ban “draconian.”

Bees are indispensable pollinators for many agricultural crops and provide massive ecosystem services for the global economy. For instance it has been estimated the economic value of honeybees in the U.S. is worth $8-12 billion.

“Protecting the health of our bee population is of great importance not only for our European agricultural sector but also for our ecosystem and environment as a whole,” European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, said on announcing the proposal.

The EU will vote on the ban later this month.

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