The European Commission has banned the pesticides associated with colony collapse disorder in bees – good for them!
Neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned across the continent for the next two years starting no later than December 1.
They are commonly used on crops such as corn, rapeseed, and cotton.
In January, the European Food Safety Authority released a report concluding that these pesticides pose a "high acute risk" to honey bees.
The vote is a big setback for Syngenta and Bayer who make the pesticides, spending millions of dollars lobbying European states against the ban.
Predictably, they claim a ban would be catastrophic to agriculture, but Italy, Slovenia and Germany enacted bans a couple years ago with no ill effects. The European Commission will review the ban after two years to see if it should remain in force.
EU countries recently voted but didn’t get a majority decision so the European Commission made an executive decision.
"I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion ($28.8 billion) annually to European agriculture, are protected," says Tonio Borg, EU Health and Consumer Commissioner.
Unfortunately, the US is not showing the same leadership.
Honey bee populations have been dropping by a third each year, but action is the US is 5-10 years down the road, says a report just released by the US Department of Agriculture and EPA.
That’s after concluding: "Overall losses continue to be high and pose a serious threat to meeting the pollination service demands for several commercial crops."
The report cites the Varroa mite (a parasite) as the biggest cause of colony collapse and the use of pesticides is another "main" concern. Still, "more research is needed to find out how much pesticide exposure bees get and their effects."
Beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups have continuously engaged the EPA on this issue, first filing an emergency legal petition to ban the pesticide clothianidin in March 2012. After being told to effectively "buzz off" by regulators, Beyond Pesticides joined with beekeepers, environmental and consumer groups in a lawsuit challenging the agency’s oversight of these systemic pesticides, as well as their practice of "conditionally" registering pesticides without adequate data.
Other problems for honey bees include lack of genetic diversity because too many colonies are bred from too few queens.
The other big problem is conventional monoculture farming, which limits pollinators’ nutrition by being exposed to one crop. Bees are literally shipping hundreds of miles to pollinate crops, which is also very stressful.
Clothianidin and thiamethoxam first became heavily used in the mid-2000s, at the same time beekeepers started observing widespread cases of colony losses.
The lawsuit against the EPA also challenges the use of so-called "conditional registrations" for these pesticides, which expedites commercialization by bypassing meaningful premarket review. Since 2000, over two-thirds of pesticide products, including clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have been brought to market as conditional registrations.