EU Votes To "Completely" Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides, But There's A Catch

One-third of US honeybees died in 2017. ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

In an effort to protect both wild and honeybee populations vital to crop pollination, the European Union voted to ban the world’s most widely used insecticides. Well, sort of.

The decision, which bans three main types of neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam) from outdoor applications, will come into effect by the end of 2018. Here's the catch: The pesticides will still be allowed in permanent greenhouses where "no contact with bees is expected".

“The protection of bees is an important issue for the Commission since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment,” according to a statement released today

Backed by a majority of the 28-member state, the decision goes beyond a 2013 restriction that prohibited the use of these pesticides on certain crops for two years. The EU has one of the strictest regulatory systems in the world when it comes to pesticide approval. A February report by the European Food Safety Authority analyzed more than 1,500 studies to show neonicotinoid pesticides act as nerve agents, damaging memory and reducing queen numbers. Its widespread application poses a risk to both honeybees and wild bees when used in an outdoor setting because it contaminates the soil and water to later appear in wildflowers and other crops the bees pollinate. As much as 75 percent of global honey could contain the chemicals. 

"The Commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority. Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment,” said Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis in a statement

One in every three bites of food worldwide depends on these little flyers. The ban addresses just one suggested cause behind colony collapse disorder, a mysterious mass disappearance where healthy bees simply abandon their hives never to return again. Other causes include global warming, habitat loss, and parasites, all of which are concerning considering bees pollinate as much as 75 percent of fruits, nuts, and vegetables in the US alone and pollinate around 80 percent of the Earth’s 250,000 flowering plants.

More than 5 million people signed a petition urging Europe to “save the bees".

“This is a major victory and opens the way to a new era of more sustainable farming. But we must keep the pressure up – now we’re taking the fight to the US, Canada, and the rest of the world,” reads the petition.

Bayer Global (who reportedly manufacture imidacloprid) said it was a “sad day for farmers,” and the decision was a "bad deal for Europe" and condemned the report for offering inconclusive evidence without offering alternatives. 

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