Bees in Decline

New report shows urgent need to eliminate bee-killer pesticides in Europe

Press release - April 9, 2013
Zurich – Greenpeace released today a comprehensive scientific review [1] of the factors that put pollinators and agriculture in Europe at risk. The study highlights the ecological and economic importance of healthy bee populations and stresses the urgent need for the elimination of bee-harming pesticides from agriculture. Such elimination would be a crucial and effective first step to protect the health of bee populations and to safeguard their pollination value that is vital for the ecosystem and food production in Europe.

The study “Bees in Decline” shows that the dramatic overall global decline in bee populations is the result of multiple factors such as diseases and parasites, climate change and wider industrial agricultural practices. Among the latter, scientific evidence highlights the deadly role of some pesticides, including the mass-killer neonicotinoids. Besides acute poisoning that leads to immediate bee death, the observed sub-lethal, low-dose effects of such pesticides range from physiological effects, perturbation of the foraging pattern, interference with feeding behaviour and neurotoxic impacts on learning processes. The ability of bees to resist diseases and parasites seems to be directly influenced by their exposure to such toxic chemicals, with catastrophic consequences for the health and survival of honeybees and other wild pollinators. Without bees, entire ecosystems, agriculture and food production would be at risk. 

Matthias Wüthrich, ecological farming campaigner and European bees project leader at Greenpeace Switzerland says: “The science is clear: the negative impacts of bee-harming pesticides by far exceed any presumed benefits. Our bees and wild pollinators are too precious to lose: EU countries simply can’t wait any longer and must take immediate action with a complete and immediate ban on these bee-killers.”

 Greenpeace identified seven priority bee-killer pesticides that should be banned due to their extremely high toxicity, sub-lethal and/or systemic effect on bees. The list includes Bayer’s imidacloprid and clothianidin, Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, BASF’s fipronil, and clorpyriphos, cypermethrin and deltamethrin produced by other agrochemical companies, all of whom earn significant profits from these chemicals’ widespread application in agriculture.

The publication of the scientific report marks the launch of a new European-wide campaign to save the bees and to promote ecological agriculture which produces food without chemicals and provides healthier habitats for domesticated and wild pollinators. Greenpeace urges policy makers across Europe to:

  • as a first step, support the ban on three bee-killer neonicotinoid pesticides, as proposed by the European Commission on 15 March [2];
  • endorse ambitious Europe-wide action plans to ban all pesticides that are harmful to bees and other vital pollinators and
  • shift funding away from chemical-intensive agriculture and promote ecological farming.

“The dramatic decline of bees is just a symptom of a failed agricultural system based on the intensive use of chemicals, serving the interest of powerful corporations like Bayer and Syngenta. We need to urgently embrace modern ecological farming. This is the only long-term solution to save the bees and agriculture in Europe,” adds Matthias Wüthrich.


[1]: “Bees in decline – a review of factors that put pollinators and agriculture in Europe at risk”, Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report, April 2013. Can be downloaded at

[2]: Technical experts from EU countries failed to reach the necessary majority in March to put a ban on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam in place. Nine countries voted against the ban and five abstained. A new vote is expected by early May.

 Press contact: Cédric Gervet, +33 613 070 429 / 

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs:

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.