Judgment day: EU to vote on ‘chemical Armageddon’ for bees

On 15 March, national experts from EU states pored over details of a new text on the proposed two-year ban on pesticides linked to catastrophic bee colony collapses, as the EU struggles to sign off on the measure. Countries such as the United Kingdom have set out a stall against the proposed ban – despite opinion polls showing that 71% of Britons support it – but they will need to persuade at least a third of EU states to join them to block the law. Frédéric Vincent, a spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, said that the Commission had amended the planned prohibition after taking into account “complaints, requests and concerns” raised by member states. “The overall idea is still to ban them but then you have variations on the ban,” he said. “It depends on the type of plant, the season, how the pesticides in question are being used, and whether [the neo-nicitinoid] is in seeds or not.” EU’s new text pushes the proposed ban back to 31 December 2014 and only applies it to winter crops from January to June, although such seed planting takes place at other times of year. The ban would also cover the domestic/household use of neo-nicitinoids. A definition of ‘winter cereals’ has been added to the legislation. Aubergines, tomatoes, and potatoes have been removed from the affected crop list, while chestnuts and hazelnuts have been included. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been named as one of the bodies responsible for ongoing risk assessments but data gaps in the system are to be filled by industry bodies instead. As a result of the balance of concessions, Portugal, Malta and Slovenia are expected to shift from abstention to supporting the ban. If they are joined by Germany, whose environment and agriculture ministries appear divided on the issue, the EU could exhale. The legislation will require a two-thirds majority in the vote at the Commission’s standing committee on the food chain and animal health.

Euractiv, 15 March 2013 ;http://www.euractiv.com/ ;