Thursday, May 03, 2018

Europe Votes to Prohibit Neonicotinoides

a buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, at work
The European Union voted to ban three commonly used pesticides of the neonicotinoid family by the end of this year.  The chemicals are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.  Recent research shows that these chemicals are not only toxic to honeybees, but also to solitary bees and bumblebees.  The EU voted in 2013 to restrict the sale of seeds treated with neonicotinoid and the use of neonicotinoids on flowing crops that attract Apis mellifera, the honeybee, which is critical to the pollination of two thirds of all food crops. {18.03.13} The sole exception to the total ban is for use in enclosed greenhouses that keep bees outside.

Science has yet to pinpoint a single cause for the massive die-off of bee populations generally known as colony collapse syndrome.  However, chronic use and abuse of pesticides has been identified as a probable contributing cause.  Neonicotinoids, which are water soluble, are particularly toxic to bees since the chemicals linger in tissues, pollen and nectar of treated plants.  A study of the world's honey shows that 86% of North American honey is contaminated with neonicotinoid chemicals, and most samples contained a cocktail of pesticide residues. Farmers in Europe resisted the ban, saying banning the chemicals will adversely affect food production and may not solve the problem of mass bee mortality.  Environmentalists say the EU Commission did not go far enough since four more neonicotinoids are in common, unrestricted use.  Efforts to block the use of neonicotinoids in the US has met stiff resistance from the chemical and agricultural industries.