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Hope for the Bees

Belgium - 01 Feb 13

A few weeks following the publication of a study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the unacceptable effects of neonicotinoid insecticides in seed treatments, the European decision-making process has finally got underway. Slow Food is happy that the European Commission has proposed banning the authorization of the systemic pesticides on seeds and in granular atom sprays for crops that attract bees for two years. The next decisions will be made in February. EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg has already said that the protection of the health of the bee population is of great importance, “not only for the agricultural sector, but also for the ecosystem and the environment as a whole.” It is a great step forward that even the EFSA is radically challenging the authorizations granted by the European Commission, which is now starting the difficult process of changing its opinion about the insecticides most commonly in use today. But all this demands reflection that goes beyond simple scientific consensus. Many questions remain about the capacity of public decision-making procedures and the trustworthiness of scientific investigation processes. For example, how is it possible that the treatment of seeds for crops that attract bees is deemed to be unacceptable, but then there is no subsequent consideration of how the treatment of seeds (including for non-bee-attracting crops) is contaminating the soil itself? Slow Food shares the views of the European Beekeeping Coordination, UNAAPI (Italy’s national union of beekeeping associations) and independent scientists who want to take this opportunity to propose to the European Union and the member states all of their considerations regarding the important deficiencies that still exist in the scientific approach towards evaluating risks connected to the use of increasingly powerful pesticide molecules. We urgently need a guarantee of a very different kind of transparency and a proper evaluation of the effective independence of authoritative scientific sources and of the various and highly probable conflicts of interest, otherwise our public authorities will never be able to defend indispensable common goods like soil fertility and biodiversity.


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