European Commission bans pesticides blamed for killing bees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 May, 2013, 5:59am

The European Commission will ban pesticides blamed for killing the bees that pollinate food and fruit crops for two years beginning in December.

The decision to ban three insecticides made by chemicals giants Bayer and Syngenta "marks another milestone towards ensuring a healthier future" for bees, EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said.

Germany's Bayer and Switzerland's Syngenta insist that their products are not to blame for a steep decline in the bee population that has stoked fears over future food security, made worse by the unpredictable impact of climate change.

Borg said he was following up on a pledge made in April that he would do his utmost "to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion [HK$219 billion] annually to European agriculture, are protected".

The insecticides - imidacloprid and clothianidin, produced by Bayer, and thiamethoxam by Syngenta - are used to treat seeds and are applied to soil or sprayed on bee-attracting plants.

Bees account for 80 per cent of plant pollination by insects, which is vital to global food production. Without them, many crops would be unable to bear fruit or would have to be pollinated by hand.

Bee numbers have slumped in Europe and the United States by about 30 per cent annually since 2007.