EU Passes Ban on Bee-Killing Pesticides

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

The pesticide industry, mainly Bayer and Syngenta, raised a big fuss about a pesticide ban in the European Union – a heated debate over there for awhile now. They saw lost profits – we saw potential for bee extinction and severe food loss as bees are the co-creators of the majority of the world’s food supply. They focused on the short-term complications for farmers who may not be prepared for a neonicotinoid ban and offered unacceptable help like more flowers around sprayed fields and “more research” while denying the clear damage coming from their products.

The initial ban crumbled – it was more of a hung jury – so there was still chance for a decision from the Commission. Last week, Europe decided to be the first continent to issue a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides – those deriving from chemicals closely related to nicotine and attack the nervous system of pests (and bees and birds). Looks like this ban, hailed as a “victory for bees” will last for two years. Alternative pesticides will have to go through rigorous testing in light of the recent, dire situation.

The Independent reports:

More than 30 separate scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids, which attack insects’ nerve systems, and falling bee numbers. 

UK, Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Austria and Portugal voted against the ban. Some countries abstained, and Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, France, Cyprus, Germany, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden voted for a pesticide ban.

Chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta lead the billion dollar neonicotinoids market – a class that includes multiple chemicals implicated in massive bee decline. It’s been persuasively argued that the mass die-off could set off a global food crisis – thus the abrupt action. Just since October 2012, in the United States, bees have declined by almost 50 percent! Other longer-term statistics are just as frightening – imagine if that rapid decline were happening to pandas, tigers, or whales – or humans? It would certainly feel like an urgent situation.

Scientists are frustrated that they have to scramble to provide more proof of the danger, as the safety impact for these chemicals were not rightly evaluated to begin with. The EPA is blamed for being lax and allowing conditional registration – that’s why multiple groups are suing them for bee and bird death.

Syngenta Chief Operating Officer John Atkin told Greenwise Business in early April:

This comprehensive plan will bring valuable insights into the area of bee health, whereas a ban on neonicotinoids would simply close the door to understanding the problem. Banning these products would not save a single hive and it is time that everyone focused on addressing the real causes of declining bee populations.

What a deludi-noid. There are other culprits to the bee decline, but how could eliminating one of the killers not save one single hive. See more below why this is asinine and why these companies don’t actually care about their farmers.

Does this pose difficulties to farmers? Yes. Unfortunately, this is a tangled knot that should have never been. It started when these chemicals entered the market for the sake of convenience and for large-scale industrial farming, and then were constantly defended by environmental agencies. Some farming practices are beginning to topple – and a sudden ban doesn’t leave much prep time for alternatives. I long for the world to reunite with biodiverse polycultural practices.

One of our reader comments:

Greenpeace writes on their website: “The elimination of these bee-killers is only the first step in protecting bees and agriculture in Europe. The only long-term solution is a shift away from chemical-intensive agriculture to ecological farming practices.” Nice words, and they sound good, but… who will pay for this scenário? Who will grant food for nowadays 7 billion on earth? How can we grow food in tropical regions, and how can we do this without expanding aor last resorts of vast land into agricultural arable land? It’s easy to say bann bee killig pesticides, but it is not so easy to grant our food growing in tropicl regions where many, and I say many caterpillars, bugs and flies eat up our crops just as fast as they grow. Ouf course we NEED our bees, but we also have to face a bitter truth: we are a few billions too many for a healthy earth, neonicotinoid insecticides on the end of the food and it´s price chain enusres that our supermarkets still have food for all…

To that all I can say is: Why wasn’t this addressed decades ago? Rachel Carson sounded the warning bells in the ’60s. But now the dam is about to break and flood. Pesticide makers have, for decades, negotiated their way into staying: DDT was too toxic as Rachael Carson showed us, so the answer to that was organophosphates; those were dangerous to animals and humans so the answer to that was neonicotinoids and here the cycle continues until massive animal die-off is just too big to ignore. And – there are ways to feed the world, and GMO and spraying practices don’t lead to larger yields, but do breed superbug and superweed resistance, and kill the co-creators of our food.

Even though Bayer and Syngenta act like they’re fighting for farmers and their expenses, they use farmers as scapegoats and blame them for their products’ damage. So why would they want to continue trusting them? Farmers of all types are really getting the shaft. PR Watch is great for catching companies in these low maneuvers.

It is estimated by researchers that even by stopping the use of bee-killing chemicals, the loss of pollinators is so great, that it will take 5-10 years to recover them and get back to the “good ol’ days.” Even so, the EU ban is a brave step toward correcting a severe environmental problem that unfortunately went neglected for far too long – let’s hope there is some help and direction for those farmers stuck holding the bag and bee keepers looking at their empty hives.

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.


Read other articles by Heather Callaghan

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