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UK blamed for “cop-out” on EU ban on pesticides linked to bee decline

Biodiversity news – by Matthew Zola
18th March 2013
The UK and other European Governments have been accused of a "cop-out" after the European Parliament failed to reach a majority vote on Friday on a ban on pesticides that have been linked to a decline in the bee population.
Five European Member States, including the UK and Germany, abstained when the European Parliament voted on proposals that limited the use of three insecticides that have been deemed "high acute risks" for bee survival by a recent European study. Although 13 states voted in favour of the ban, the abstentions along with nine votes against and five that were unable to come to a qualified majority either way, meant the ban was not carried on Friday. 

"This is a cop-out by a significant number of European governments, including the UK – it means yet more dither and delay while our bee populations plummet," Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns at environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE), said.

Last week’s European vote, follows a discussion paper put forward in January to the Member States of the EU by Tonio Borg, Commissioner at the EU Agriculture Council, to limit the use of three neonicotinoids insecticides – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – after a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report published in the same month indicated they were dangerous to bees and beehives. Borg’s discussion paper proposed to prohibit the sale of seeds treated with the pesticides and to restrict their usage to plants non-attractive to bees.

UK retailers support ban
The UK abstention comes despite many UK retailers, including B&Q, Homebase, Wickes, the Garden Centre Group and Dobbies and Notcutts, removing the insecticides from their shelves after the EFSA report was published.

"There is more than enough evidence that these chemicals are linked to bee decline to place immediate restrictions on their use," Pendleton said. "The UK Government could and should follow the example of retailers and take action to ban these products."

European Commission committed to legislative action 
Despite the ban reaching a stalemate, the European Commission said it was not the end of the road for legislative action against the pesticides. "The Commission takes note of the Member States’ response to its proposal but remains committed to ambitious and proportionate legislative measures. The services of European Commissioner Tonio Borg will now consider the next steps," the EC said in a statement.

FoE is campaigning for legislative action in the UK. It has launched a Bee Action Plan that would reduce the use of insecticides, protect all 267 UK bee species, and ensure there were enough habitats to support the population. 157 British MPs currently support the plan.

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