Bee

The European Union passed a continent-wide ban yesterday on the insecticides believed to be the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious disease affecting millions of bees worldwide and threatening global food supplies.

“The suspension is a landmark victory for millions of environmental campaigners, backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), concerned about a dramatic decline in the bee population,” reports the Guardian. “The vote also represents a serious setback for the chemical producers who make billions each year from the products and also UK ministers, who voted against the ban. Both had argued the ban would harm food production.”

Tonio Borg, health and consumer commissioner, said: “Our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the EFSA, [so] the European commission will go ahead with its plan in coming weeks.”

Studies have connected neonicotinoids, the  most widely used pesticides in the world, with major bee losses including the declining number of queen bees being produced, and a growing number of “disappearing” bees who seem to become disoriented and incapable of finding their way back to hives.

Pesticide manufacturers including Syngenta have lobbied the EU extensively over the ban. Syngenta even threatened to sue EU officials who were involved in the publishing of a report that connected the bee deaths with the pesticides, citing the risk as “unacceptable.” The report was the catalyst in the ban proposed by the EFSA.

Chemical companies involved in the production of neonicotinoids say the science is inconclusive and there are greater risks to the food supply in banning the pesticides. But the EU banned three neonicotinoids – thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid – for two years on flowering crops favored by bees including corn, canola and sunflowers.

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Image: andreas