After a fight which has lasted decades, the world’s most widely used insecticides have finally been banned by EU member states.
Today Friday 27th of April, EU Member States voted in Brussels to ban the outdoor use of neonicotinoids. This is a huge victory for pollinating insects such as bees, and for everyone, including farmers, consumers, and member states. In March of this year the European Food Safety Authority published risk assessment reports which highlighted the risks of neonicotinoid substances imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam. As a result, the European Commission called for the restriction of their outdoor use, which was received with resistance from some Member States. The Commission decided to call a vote for today, which reached a qualified majority and therefore approved the ban.
Slow Food welcomes this outcome and congratulates the Commission and the countries who voted for the ban for finally passing the proposal. This is a huge step, although the fight is not over just yet: the Commission supports the idea that a “full ban of the use of the three neonicotinoids is not justified, because there is no risk to bees for all uses where the plants are treated in a permanent greenhouse and remain there during the whole lifecycle”, meaning that neonicotinoid substances are still allowed for greenhouse use. Considering the proven risks of these substances, Slow Food believes they should be banned for any crop, anywhere.
Reflecting on the vote, Carlo Petrini, Slow Food President, said, “Today EU member states were on the right side of history. This is a momentous victory not just for bees, but also for society at large. This vote is a message to decision makers and the industrial agricultural system, our health and the health of the planet will prevail over the misguided financial interests of corporations. This is an important step towards achieving good, clean and fair agriculture.”
Martin Dermine, Coordinator of the Save the Bees Coalition and coordinator of the Slow Food Belgian Black Bee Presidium commented, “This is a historical day as neonicotinoids have decimated millions of hives across Europe since they were authorized 20 years ago. Member States have given a strong signal today in favor of the protection of the environment and a more sustainable agriculture”.
What’s happening? The European Commission proposed a complete ban on the outdoor use of neonicotinoids, without exceptions (e.g. for sugarbeet). The Commission needed a qualified majority on the vote (at least 16 countries, representing 65% of the EU population) this Friday to pass the ban.
What’s at stake? Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticide and have long been known to have serious impacts on biodiversity and food security. Prolonging their use in agriculture is completely unsustainable and poses a huge threat to the future of our food system. Research shows that harm to bees arises not only from treated crop plants but also from contaminated wild plants that have not been directly treated with neonicotinoids. Furthermore, recent data demonstrates that neonicotinoids have become pervasive in our environment, polluting water, soil and natural vegetation. They pose significant risks to many wildlife species other than bees, including butterflies, beetles and aquatic insects, with possible ripple effects up the food chain.
Why are farmers using so much insecticide? The assumption has long been that neonicotinoids will help to guarantee high yields, but a large body of scientific research and reports have shown that yields are not, in fact, higher and that pest resistance to the substance occurs very fast, typically over 2-3 years. Alternative measures, including agro-ecological techniques, can provide the possibility of avoiding the use of all very toxic substances while maintaining the same yield and reducing the cost to farmers.