Bee Emergency Call : How Member States keep using banned neonicotinoids and how the European Commission does nothing to stop them

February 2017 - Executive Summary

Bees are still under threat from abuse of pesticides. Four pesticides which are highly toxic to bees (including neonicotinoids and fipronil) were banned in 2013. However, the pesticide and seed industry, farmers and many EU Member States are continuing to use these pesticides. This is through a loophole in the Pesticides Regulation that allows for ‘emergency authorisations’.


‘Emergency authorisations’ for banned or non-approved pesticides can only be used in ‘exceptional circumstances’, for example, when a danger to crops or the environment leaves the farmer or Member State with no other choice other than to use the pesticide.


However, this mechanism is being abused. Between 2013 and 2016, over 1,100 emergency authorisations were granted by Member States. In this period, at least 62 emergency authorisations were granted by Member States allowing the use of these bee-harming pesticides.


Although the European Commission is aware of such abuse, it has never used its powers to stop or limit the harm to bees.


Beelife, ClientEarth and PAN Europe obtained the notifications that Member States submitted to the Commission. These should detail the reason for the emergency authorisation. These documents reveal that:


Member States are granting emergency authorisations without demonstrating that an emergency even exists. The conditions for granting an emergency authorisation for bee harming pesticides under the law are not satisfied. For example:

The majority of Member State notifications do not provide the necessary information that a ‘danger’ or ‘threat’ exists. For example, 82% do not provide economic evidence of the threat. Emergency authorisations should only be granted in ‘special’ or ‘exceptional’ situations where a there is a ‘danger or threat to plant production or ecosystems.’
79% of notifications did not list any alternative means of control of pests. Emergency uses of unauthorised products can only be allowed where there is a danger that ‘cannot be contained by any other reasonable means.’
 The majority of Member State notifications fail to provide any information to prove that the banned pesticides will be used in a ‘limited and controlled’ way.  Emergency authorisations can only be granted where Member States demonstrate that this criterion is satisfied.

The Commission is failing to use its powers to halt, reduce or limit the abuse of the emergency authorisation provisions.
44% of requests for derogations are submitted solely by business (pesticides industry, seeds industry, trade associations). The majority of applications for emergency uses of bee-harming pesticides are promoted by these industries (86% of applications are applied for with industry involvement). This is contrary to the aim of the ‘emergency authorisation’ procedure, which is to help farmers protect their crops in an unforeseen event and Member States to protect threats to ecosystems from exotic pests.


The ‘business as usual’ approach, taken by the Commission and Member States, is further threatening bee populations as they continue to be exposed to these highly toxic pesticides.


Bee Life, ClientEarth and PAN Europe call on the Commission to properly implement the provisions of the Pesticides Regulation:

1. The Commission should update its guidance on Article 53 and develop clear and predictable procedures to minimise the use of emergency authorisations.
2. The Commission should systematically publish notifications as soon as they are notified, so that Member States are subject to public scrutiny, and are therefore incentivised to promote greater environmental protection.
3. When notifications are of poor quality and not detailed enough the Commission should ask Member States to resend complete and detailed notifications as provided by Article 53.
4. The Commission should utilise its power to systematically scrutinise the notifications submitted by Member States for every emergency authorisation that is granted by a Member State more than once. 
5. Where the authorisation does not comply with the conditions of Article 53, the Commission should propose to withdraw the relevant emergency authorisation and establish strict conditions to allow emergency authorisations.
6. The Commission should require applicants to demonstrate that they are complying with the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) before an emergency authorisation is granted.
7. The Commission should clarify that emergency authorisation requests from industry must be rejected by Member States.
8. Member States should no longer be able to provide derogations more than once without a decision by the Commission providing the conditions for repeating the emergency authorisation or providing for the withdrawal of the authorisation (as foreseen under Article 53(3)).


To the Full Report: Bee Emergency Call



© Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe), Rue de la Pacification 67, 1000, Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 318 62 55

Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the European Union, European Commission, DG Environment, LIFE programme. Sole responsibility for this publication lies with the authors and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.