In the 90s, a new class of insecticides developed by Bayer and Syngenta named ‘neonicotinoids’ were put on the market in the European Union. Rapidly, European beekeepers have faced dramatic mortalities in their apiaries when imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin’s uses increased across our agricultural land. Many areas of the country side turned into toxic places for bees and more and more beekeepers seeked refuge in cities or more natural areas. After long campaigns of awareness raising, in which Slow Food has been an active player, beekeepers and environmental organizations obtained restrictions on the uses of ‘neonics’ at EU-level in 2013: these agrochemicals could no longer be used on bee-attractive crops. In the meantime, dozens of new scientific publications confirmed the harm of these neurotoxic substances on honey bees but also on wild bees, butterflies, bats, etc. Furthermore, evidence has shown that the 2013 restrictions were insufficient to protect bees as neonics contaminate the entire environment. Even when applied to crops non-attractive to bees, they contaminate soils for many years, move towards surface water, contaminate the areas surrounding crops and also contaminate the nectar and pollen of wild flowers that are key elements of pollinators’ diet. There is now enough evidence to demand a full ban on neonicotinoids.
The European Commission sent out a draft proposal to member states to purely ban neonicotinoids earlier this year. This is an important step, but many member states have put up resistance and the European Commission needs member state’s support to put a full ban in place. Therefore, several NGOs acting in the area of pesticides at EU-level, including Slow Food, have joined forces to launch the Save the Bees coalition; a platform of local, regional, national and European NGOs acting together to put pressure on national governments in order to obtain a majority of member states to support the Commission proposal to protect pollinators from neonicotinoids. We need our pollinators as well as our nature to live; it is more than time to develop a model of agriculture that preserves them!
Martin Dermine, Pollinators project coordinator
Pesticide Action Network Europe
Slow Food has several Presidia in the European Union that are working to protect small-scale producers working with bees, including Polish Mead, the Belgian Black Bee, the High Mountain Honeys of northern Italy. We continue to take an active part in campaigning against the use of pesticides in the European Union, and promote the importance of the work being done by these small-scale producers to defend biodiversity and the future of European agriculture.