honey bees

EU pesticide ban flouted as countries exploit legal loophole

EU countries are ignoring the ban on bee-harming pesticides and continuing to use them across Europe. The Commission has the power to curb this alarming trend, but is doing nothing to stop it.

New analysis by ClientEarth, PAN Europe and Bee Life shows that since the ban on four pesticides – of which three are neonicotinoids – began in 2013, 62 exceptions have been granted, exploiting a major loophole in the law.

ClientEarth lawyer Dominique Doyle said: “There is no excuse to continue using neonicotinoids, and in many cases, applicants don’t even bother to provide one.

“The Commission is turning a blind eye to industry influence, by accepting applications from, or backed by, Bayer, Syngenta and other pesticides manufacturers. Bayer, Syngenta and BASF are at the same time challenging Commission decisions to ban the bee-harming pesticides in EU Court.

“In granting wide-scale requests which breach EU law, it makes a mockery of Europe’s ban on bee-harming pesticides.”

Over 80% were also made by, or with participation from, industry. This is expressly criticised by the Commission, which said applications can only be made in the interests of agriculture, environment or government, and must not be made to satisfy industry’s financial interests.

Special permission to use the pesticides – widely thought responsible for causing honey bee colonies to collapse – should be granted only in exceptional circumstances.

In the vast majority of cases, EU countries did not properly justify their use of the banned pesticides, but the Commission ignored these abuses.

PAN Europe pollinator expert Martin Dermine said: “EU countries are exploiting the emergency exception rule to circumvent pesticide bans and maintain a model of agriculture that is outdated: high-polluting, low efficiency and low quality.

“It is also unacceptable that 44% of the requests are made by industry alone, and that national governments accept them.”

The Commission must significantly strengthen the law and put in place strict rules to avoid the current systematic abuses by EU countries. This will protect bees and support the EU’s goal of more environmentally friendly farming.

Read the report: Bee emergency call – How some Member States are threatening bees by allowing the use of prohibited pesticides and how the Commission does nothing to stop them

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