The European Union has voted to ban the use of the three most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides on all outdoor crops. The ban, approved by EU member nations on Friday, is expected to go into effect by the end of this year. The use of the pesticides will still be allowed in closed greenhouses.
Research has shown that neonicotinoid pesticides are likely a contributing factor in the rapid decline of bee populations worldwide. Neonicotinoids are nerve agents, and studies have linked their presence on crops to hindering bees' ability to fly and navigate as well as to malnutrition leading to widespread bee death.
“Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees,” Antonia Staats from campaign group Avaaz told the Guardian. The group's petition in favor of banning neonicotinoid pesticides earned almost 5 million signatures. “Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can’t live with these chemicals and we can’t live without bees.”
The EU had already banned these pesticides for use on flowering crops that attract bees in 2013.
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“Policy makers in other jurisdictions will be paying close attention to these decisions,” Professor Nigel Raine of the University of Guelph in Canada told the Guardian. “We rely on both farmers and pollinators for the food we eat. Pesticide regulation is a balancing act between unintended consequences of their use for non-target organisms, including pollinators, and giving farmers the tools they need to control crop pests.”
In the United States, the EPA delayed regulatory action on neonicotinoids in February.
“The EU’s groundbreaking ban on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides is a huge win for pollinators, people and the planet,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Given the overwhelming body of scientific evidence and overwhelming public concern, EPA as well as leading U.S. food retailers like Kroger should take immediate action and eliminate the use of these toxic pesticides."
Bees pollinate one-third of all food crops worldwide. In 2013, Jason Tylianakis at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, described bees as "the species charged with protecting global food security."
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