European Commission proposal to ban bee-harming pesticides fails

A European attempt to ban the world's most widely-used insecticides linked to serious harm in bees has failed. A two-year suspension of neonicotinoids had been proposed by the European commission after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) deemed their use an unacceptable risk, however, major nations including UK and Germany failed to back the plan in a vote yesterday.

The development has left environmental campaigners, scientists and some politicians disappointed.

Ian Keith, at campaign group Avaaz said, Britain and Germany had caved in to the industry lobby and refused to ban bee-killing pesticides. He added the vote yesterday flew in the face of science and public opinion and maintained the disastrous chemical armageddon on bees, which were critical for the future of the world's food.

The chemical companies dominating the billion-dollar neonicotinoid market, Bayer and Syngenta, were relieved with Syngenta chief operating officer, John Atkin, saying the company was pleased that member states did not support the EC's "shamefully political proposal".

He added, restricting the use of this "vital crop protection technology" would do nothing to help improve bee health.

A Bayer spokesman, describing the company as a "responsible corporate citizen" said, the EC had relied too heavily on the precautionary principle, without taking the principle of proportionality into account.

With EU nations unable to reach agreement on proposals to ban the use of three pesticides the EC's two-year EU-wide moratorium call has fallen through.

According to a spokeswoman for Defra, the UK's environment department, 14 out of the 27 EU nations - including the UK and Germany - had not supported the commission's proposals as they currently stood.

She added, bee health was extremely important but decisions had to be based on sound scientific evidence and rushing the ban through could have serious unintended consequences both for bees and for food production.

She added Defra was currently finalising studies that would give it the evidence on which to base a proper decision, but as it did not have the evidence yet, it was impossible for Defra to vote either way.

Meanwhile, Avaaz condemning the UK's and Germany's decision to abstain, said the governments had "caved in to the industry lobby".

According to conservationists the harm resulting from the loss of bees and the vital pollination service they provided outweighed any farming losses. Around three-quarters of the UK public supported the proposed ban, according to a poll released on Wednesday.