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Manufacturers propose bee action plan to stave off EU ban on pesticides

Biodiversity news – by GreenWise Staff
2nd April 2013
Two pesticide manufacturers have proposed a bee action plan in the hope that it will stave off a European ban on insecticides that scientists have said pose a "high acute risk" to bees and bee health.
Swiss-based Syngenta and German-based Bayer CropScience, two leading neonicotinoid manufacturers, are lobbying the European Commission to adopt their bee action plan after the European Parliament failed to reach a majority vote on a ban of their products earlier this month. The vote followed a European Food Safety Authortity (EFSA) report that named three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – as harmful to bee populations. 

"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," said John Atkin, Syngenta’s chief operating officer. "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. The plan is based on our confidence in the safety of our products and on our historical commitment to improving the environment for bees."

What the plan proposes
The proposed plan suggests creating more pollen rich flower fields to provide more habitats for bees and research in new technologies that would limit the dust emissions from plants treated with the insecticides. The plan also proposes more research into what it calls the "main" problems affecting bee health, which include bee parasites and viruses.

"Even though all the evidence points to various parasites and diseases being the true cause of poor bee health, we are keen to do everything in our power to give consumers confidence in our products," said Dr. Rüdiger Scheitza, the head of strategy and business management at Bayer CropScience.

Many UK retailers, including B&Q, Homebase, Wickes, the Garden Centre Group and Dobbies and Notcutts, removed the insecticides from their shelves following the EFSA report.

The bee population halved over a 25-year period between 1986 and 2011 as insecticide use grew and habitats disappeared. Bees play an important role for UK farmers as they are responsible for pollinating 75 per cent of all UK crops. If done by hand, this would cost the UK over £1.8 billion resulting in higher food costs for consumers according to the University of Reading.

"The significant lack of agreement between the European Commission and the Member States needs a bold plan so that farmers in Europe can continue to produce the high quality affordable food, in a way that promotes the health of bees and other pollinators. We believe that such a plan as this can be delivered," continued Dr. Scheitza.

Green group reaction
While the insecticide companies are confident that their plan will work to save bee populations and keep their insecticides in use, green groups like Friends of the Earth (FoE) believe that unless neonictinoids are banned bee populations will not be able to recover.

"Even argi-chemical firms agree bees are in severe danger, but their vested interests in keeping pesticides on the market are clouding their vision," said Paul de Zylva, the senior nature campaigner at FoE. "Any bee action plan will fail unless it addresses all causes of bee decline and backs the EC's proposed ban on neonicotinoids."

Friends of the Earth has its own bee action plan that calls for decreased use of pesticides, protection for all 267 UK bee species, and ensuring that there are enough bee habitats to support bee populations.

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