Majority of EU countries support partial ban of bee-killing pesticides

Press release - April 29, 2013
Brussels – A clear majority of EU countries have supported the European Commission proposal to temporarily ban three pesticides that are scientifically shown to be harmful to bees: imidacloprid and clothianidin, produced by chemical company Bayer, and thiamethoxam, produced by Syngenta.

Bees Protection Action at Syngenta in Basel

 Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said: “Today’s vote makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban. Those countries opposing a ban have failed. Now, the Commission must draw the only conclusion possible and immediately halt the use of these pesticides as a first step to protect European food production and ecosystems. Any further delay would mean giving in to the lobbying muscle of Bayer and Syngenta.”

The three pesticides are all neonicotinoids, pesticides that are used to coat seeds before germination, added to soil or sprayed on plants.

In scientific reports published earlier this year, which triggered the Commission proposal, the European Food Safety Authority said the three neonicotinoids posed “high acute risks” to honeybees in certain crop uses [1]. Extensive peer-reviewed scientific research has linked even low doses of neonicotinoids with neurological and other physiological damage on bees, as well as with disrupted foraging patterns and damage to immune systems [2]. The European Environment Agency also recently issued a report warning against the consequences of inaction on these pesticides [3].

Ignoring scientific evidence on the toxicity of such pesticides, companies like Syngenta and Bayer have been running an intensive lobbying and public relations campaign in an attempt to delay a ban [4], said Greenpeace. Other pesticides produced by these and other companies also pose a severe threat to bees and other pollinators. A recent Greenpeace report, Bees in Decline, identified seven bee-killing pesticides produced by Syngenta, Bayer, BASF and other companies, four of which are not neonicotinoids [5]. Greenpeace is campaigning to remove these pesticides from the market as a crucial first step to start a move away from industrial farming in Europe.

Partial bans of neonicotinoids are already in place in Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia, with no significant negative impacts on agricultural production.

Greenpeace European bees campaign coordinator Matthias Wüthrich said: "Bee decline is one of the most obvious and visible effects of a failed industrial farming model, which contaminates our environment and destroys farmers' smartest natural ally - pollinators. European policymakers should shift funding away from chemical-intensive agriculture and promote ecological farming."


[UPDATE] - 15 EU countries voted to support the Commission proposal. 4 abstained and 8 voted against.

[1] European Food Safety Authority, ‘EFSA identifies risks to bees from neonicotinoids, January 2013.

[2] Science: Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production, A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees; Nature: Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual- and colony-level traits in bees.

[3] European Environment Agency, January 2013 , Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation II, Chapter 16, Seeddressing systemic insecticides and honeybees.

[4] Corporate Europe Observatory, Pesticides against pollinators; ‘Private letters reveal Syngenta and Bayer’s furious lobbying against EU measures to save bees’, 11 April 2013.

[5] Greenpeace Science Unit, April 2013, Bees in Decline.


Marco Contiero -
Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director: +32 (0)477 777 034, 

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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