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EU bans three bee-harming neonics
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Following a proposal of the European Commission, the EU member states have banned three bee poisonous pesticides for outdoor use. Germany also supported the ban. However, for environmental associations, the new regulation does not go far enough.
With the decision of the member states, the insecticides imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam are completely banned outdoors and may only be used in greenhouses. These three substances belong to the class of neonicotinoids (neonics) and have been considered extremely toxic to bees for years. For this reason, the EU had already restricted its use in 2013. At the end of February 2018, the EU Food Safety Authority EFSA presented a new assessment showing that the three neonics pose a threat to honeybees, bumble bees and wild bees. German Federal Minister of Agriculture, Julia Klöckner (CDU), justified her approval in the parliament with the sentence: “Bees are systemically relevant, and what harms the bee must be removed from the market.”
A good start, but not enough to save the bees
Green and environmental associations said that the ban was long overdue, but it does not go far enough for them. “Not only these three substances but all neonicotinoids have to be banned”, said BUND pesticide expert Corinna Hölzel: “Otherwise farmers can easily replace one substance with another, similarly dangerous one.” She pointed out that neonics are long-lasting and accumulate in the soil. “They also damage soil creatures such as earthworms, ants and springtails.”
Member of the German parliament Harald Ebner (Greens) also called on the federal government to take all Neonics from the field. It should also stop imports of seeds treated with non-approved neonicotinoids. His fellow party member Martin Häusling, spokesman on agricultural policy for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and member of the EU Environment Committee, sees the ban on the three neonicotinoids imposed by the EU member states as only a first step on the road to largely chemical-free agriculture and comments:
"With this decision, which Germany has thankfully now supported, the roulette for biodiversity is not yet over. Because just like 40 years ago in the DDT scandal, there will be a long-term effect, as neonics are hardly degradable in the soil. On the one hand, the use of these poisons in the greenhouse, which in my opinion is superfluous and also questionable, is still possible. On the other hand, two further active ingredients of these nerve toxins are still freely available for sale. Some of them can even be used in private gardens, but which hobby gardener is aware of this? Wild bees, honeybees and the many other insects affected by the toxins, and consequently the birds dependent on them, must be better protected. We don't want a silent spring. Therefore, in the long term there is no way around an ecological, at least largely chemical-free agriculture. The industry will always bring some supposedly bee-friendly insecticides onto the market. And at some point, it will always turn out that they are more dangerous for our nature than initially claimed."