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All three pesticides, two from Bayer and one from Syngenta, were linked to the decline of pollinators
The 28 member countries of the EU have decided this morning to completely ban the outdoor use of three neonicotinoid insecticides widely used throughout the world on corn, rapeseed, cotton and sunflower crops. In February, scientists from the European Food Safety Authority already ruled that the three pesticides - imidacloprid and clothianidin, manufactured by Bayer, and thiamethoxam, from Syngenta - "in general" pose "a risk to wild bees and honey bees" .
Neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides, which are absorbed by plants and are present in their pollen and nectar. A multitude of scientific studies have linked these pesticides with a decline in bee populations, along with a multitude of other factors, such as the destruction of their habitat, climate change, the miteVarroa that sucks up your internal fluids and the parasiteNosema apis that attacks your digestive system.
Imidacloprid, manufactured by Bayer, is one of the most widely used insecticides in the world. In 2010, around 20,000 tonnes of active substance were manufactured. In Spain, insecticides and miticides represent only 9.9% of the total pesticides used. Most of them are fungicides, against harmful fungi, and herbicides, against weeds.
The use of the three insecticides was already restricted in the EU since 2013 in application of the precautionary principle. A year ago, the most ambitious field experiment to date showed negative effects on bees. The study, funded by the pesticide manufacturers themselves, investigated the impact on the honey bee, the common bumblebee and the solitary bee in 2,000 hectares of rapeseed crops in Hungary, the United Kingdom and Germany. In Hungary, the number of bee colonies decreased by 24% during the winter. In the United Kingdom, between 67% and 79%, although in areas without neonicotinoids it also fell by 58%. In Germany, however, no negative effects were detected.
Thus, four years after the partial ban on these substances, the EC will restrict the use of three neonicotinoids in open spaces where bees operate, although it will allow their application in greenhouses where bees are not exposed. These substances are very common in intensive agriculture and their main function is to protect crops from pests, although according to various scientific studies, they are also responsible for altering bee populations.
The agronomist Carlos Palomar, general director of the Business Association for Plant Protection (AEPLA), believes that the European decision is "regrettable" and that there are no "viable alternatives" to the three neonicotinoids. Around the world, there are 9,000 species of insects and mites that attack crops, with serious impacts on crops. "Maybe not now, but in time the impact of eliminating such valuable tools will be seen," he says. The environmental organization Greenpeace, on the other hand, has described the decision as "very good news for the environment."
“The EC proposed these measures months ago based on scientific advice from EFSA. The health of bees continues to be of vital importance to me as they are part of biodiversity, food production and the environment ”, celebrated the European Commissioner for Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis. The vote was also held by organizations such as Greenpeace, Avaaz or SumOfUs, which have exerted strong pressure to ban the use of these pesticides as well as the Green group of the European Parliament. “It is great news that our governments have agreed to ban these pesticides. If we had not done so, we would have put our bees and their pollinating activity at risk, "said Avaaz campaign coordinator Antonia Staats, who stressed that countries such as France or Germany have long supported the restriction of their use. The regulation will be adopted in the coming weeks and will come into force at the end of the year, according to the EC in a statement.
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