EU restrict pesticides use to protect bees

The EU has clamped restrictions on three pesticides to better protect dwindling bee populations, which would come into effect by December.

According to EU health commissioner Tonio Borg, yesterday's decision came as a "milestone towards ensuring a healthier future for our honeybees."

Environmentalists have supported the move, which is being opposed by chemical manufacturers.

The official approval of the measure came yesterday after a tentative deal last month restricted three neonicotinoid pesticides on plants and cereals that attracted bees. The ban would remain in force for two years unless decisive new information became available.

Beekeepers had reported an unusual decline in bee population in the past decade, especially in Western Europe. They said bees were critically important to the environment, sustaining biodiversity by providing pollination for a wide range of crops and wild plants, which included most of Europe's food crops.

The ban would mostly hit insecticides, clothianidin and imidacloprid, made mainly by German chemical giant Bayer AG and thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta for use on crops and seeds that attract bees. The crops would include corn, cereals, sunflower and oilseed rape.

Friday's decision marks "another milestone towards ensuring a healthier future for our honeybees, as bees have two important roles to play: not only that of producing honey but primarily to be a pollinator," Borg said in a statement.

Bayer and Syngenta had mounted campaigns against the move, contending that the evidence that insecticides had contributed to plunging bee colony populations was weak. The plan was opposed by eight EU nations --not enough to prevent the commission from adopting the regulation.