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Press Release

23 April 2015

European Commission delays protection of bees while Nature study shows neonicotinoids put at risk food production

Field monitoring shows that neonicotinoids are currently eliminating natural pollinators from our agricultural land. Wild bees are necessary for 86% of crop pollination. In the meantime, the European Commission deliberately delays the enforcement of new rules that would avoid that such harmful pesticides are authorised on the market. Furthermore, the Commission closes its eyes to the numerous derogations provided to farmers in Member States.

Nearly every week, a new independent study showing harm of neonicotinoids, be it to honey bees or wild pollinators is published. Yesterday, Nature published a Swedish study [1] revealing that while due to their social structure, honey bees have more capacity to resist to the toxicity of neonicotinoids, their wild counterpart, i.e. bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies, etc. are much more susceptible to these insecticides used in agriculture since the mid-90’s.

This study confirms what laboratory tests already tell us for years: neonicotinoids are highly toxic to pollinators. Last week, the European Academies Science Advisory Council published a report [2] on the toxicity of neonicotinoids to pollinators as well as to other parts of ecosystems linked to agriculture: soil health, water quality, etc. The same week, IUCN presented its Red list of endangered bee species [3]. The group of international experts clearly linked the decline of wild pollinators to agriculture and pesticides.

This year, DG Sante is launching a review of the partial ban on neonicotinoids. On the one hand independent studies constantly confirm harm of these insecticides on pollinators. On the other, the decision might be taken based only on industry-based studies that generally, surprisingly, show no harm.

In the meantime, vice-president Timmermans imposed DG Sante to delay the enforcement of new rules intended at, precisely, protecting bumble bees and other wild pollinators, in the authorisation process of pesticides. Currently they are not taken into account. EFSA published in 2013 a new Guidance document on the risk assessment of pesticides on bees but pesticides- and industry-friendly Member States such as UK managed to block the process. Timmermans imposed DG Sante to present to DG Growth and Jobs, DG Envi, DG agri and Secretariat general a roadmap that will probably lead to an impact assessment. As for endocrine disruptors and citizen protection, making an impact assessment means watered-down protection of pollinators as financial interests come first.

Martin Dermine, Pesticide Action Network Europe’s apidologist says: “It has been thought for a long time that honey bees were the main pollinators of our crops but studies published in the last years [4] showed that having a diversity of wild bee species is actually more important. 84% of agricultural crops need insect pollination. Our societies will have to choses between jeopardizing our food production through an agricultural system that is self-destructive or applying alternatives that already exist like crop rotation, biocontrol, crop diversification, etc.”

Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemical officer added: “The European Commission is under enormous pressure from lobby groups such as ECPA and COPA-COGECA who fight to maintain the use of neonicotinoids. It constantly shuts its eyes on all the derogations provided by Member States (Finland, Germany, Romania, Latvia in 2014). We feel citizen’s long term interest and environment protection are less important that financial interest of companies.”

— ENDS —

Further information

1. Seed coating with a neonicotinoid insecticide negatively affects wild bees. Maj Rundlöf, Georg K. S. Andersson, Riccardo Bommarco, Ingemar Fries, Veronica Hederström, Lina Herbertsson, Ove Jonsson, Björn K. Klatt, Thorsten R. Pedersen, Johanna Yourstone, Henrik G. Smith. Nature, 2015

4. Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance. Garibaldi L. et al. Science. 2013 Mar 29;339(6127):1608-11. doi: 10.1126/science.1230200

For further information please contact:

Martin Dermine, Tel: +32 (0)486 32 99 92,

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