The European Union will ban a range of neonicotinoid insecticides for 2 years. This group of insecticides have been implicated in the collapse of bee colonies, putting crop pollination in jeopardy.
The vote was close (the UK voted against), requiring the European Commission to make a casting vote which approved the ban on three groups of neonicotinoids – thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid. Those countries voting against maintain that the ban will significantly reduce crop yields. Those in favour point to a growing body of research that associates the continued use of neonicotinoids with the collapse of bee colonies. Large manufacturers like Syngenta, Paterson and Bayer dispute the research and say their product is safe for bees.
Syngenta says: “The proposal ignores a wealth of evidence from the field that these pesticides do not damage the health of bees. The EC should [instead] address the real reasons for bee health decline: disease, viruses and loss of habitat.”
However many scientists who have been studying bee colony collapse are convinced that the widespread use of neonicotinoids in flowering crops such as canola, sunflowers and corn has contributed to alarming reductions in honey bee numbers throughout Europe. In Colony Collapse Disorder, bees fail to return to the hive from their foraging trips. It’s thought that an accumulation of neonicotinoids in the bees attacks their neural pathways, causing them to literally forget how to get back to their colony. This means that spraying at a time when bees are not foraging (as is recommended by the manufacturers) does not prevent them being damaged by the insecticide.