This EU vote could make a huge difference to bees’ survival

27 Apr 2018

Image: ch_ch/Shutterstock

Member states of the EU are set to vote in a complete ban on a particular pesticide, potentially saving a significant amount of bees in Europe.

They are crucial to our ability to put food on the table each day as pollinators of plants, but the humble bumblebee and other bee species are facing a bleak future if things continue as they have.

Whether it is climate change or the overuse of pesticides, bees are teetering on the brink of extinction. Now, though, a glimmer of hope is set to emerge from an EU parliament vote due today (27 April).

According to the BBC, member states look likely to pass a ban on neonicotinoid after scientific studies have linked the chemical to declining populations of pollinators such as the honeybee.

As things stand, the pesticide is the most commonly used in the world. While there has been pushback from a number of farming groups, organisations such as the European Food Safety Authority have said its use in any environment brings more harm than good.

The move comes five years after the EU brought in a partial ban on three other pesticides – imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam – but only applied it to crops such as corn, wheat, barley oats and oilseed rape.

Since that time, neonicotinoid was allowed for use in a number of EU countries, but it had become apparent that it was no longer environmentally friendly.

When this new law is implemented, however, it would effectively ban the use of any of these chemicals for not only large-scale farms, but any outdoor use.

Challenge from farmers

Speaking to the BBC, Greenpeace’s Franziska Achterberg said the success of this EU motion has come as a result of increased pressure from the UK government, leading to other countries following suit, including Ireland.

“It has helped sway Ireland definitely, and then lately the Germans, the Austrians and the Dutch. I think the fact the UK had come around was a good signal for them as well, that they could not stay behind,” she said.

Opposition to the plan has come from groups that have asked for a number of crop exemptions, including sugar beet, but the EU has been steadfast in its decision.

Chris Hartfield from the UK National Farmers’ Union said of the ban: “The commission hasn’t been able to find that these restrictions have delivered any measurable benefits for bees.

“That has been a big question for us and if we can’t be certain they can deliver measurable benefits, why are we doing this?”

Despite needing a 55pc majority in parliament to implement the law, even if it were to fail and be taken to appeal and fail again, the EU can still impose its ruling.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic