EU Proposes Ban on Neonicotinoids; Syngenta, Bayer Respond

Neonicotinoids pose risk to bees, say European officials.

The European Union proposed a two-year ban on imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin on crops attractive to honey bees, a move prompted by a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report that identified risks to the bees.

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The Commission also wants to prohibit the sale and use of seeds treated with plant protection products containing these active substances, according to a Jan. 31 proposal at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

The Commission asked member states to put in place a two-year suspension on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam as granules, seed treatment or sprays on maize, oil seed rape, sunflowers, cotton and cereals (except for winter cereals). The regulation is expected to be implemented by July 1.

“These are proportionate measures. We are giving the member states two years to see whether it’s working. Then we will see if we need to review the legislation in Europe,” the Commission’s spokesperson for health and consumer policy, Frederic Vincent, said on Jan. 31 in an article on the Europolitics website.

In its report published Jan. 16, EFSA found that contamination of neonicotinoid-treated crops, neonicotinoid dust exposure, and nectar and pollen exposure contributes to declines in honey bees and weakens their hives. It also identified high risks from exposure to guttation fluid from corn for thiamethoxam.

Syngenta, Bayer React

Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta, which makes thiamethoxam, said it believes the EFSA “found itself under political pressure to produce a hurried and inadequate risk assessment, which even they acknowledge contains a high level of uncertainty.” A recent study cited by the company showed that without neonicotinoid seed treatment, crop yields would fall by 40% and cost the EU economy around $23.1 billion over five years.

“Seed treated with thiamethoxam has been used across millions of hectares of European crops for over ten years. When used properly the technology does not damage bee populations and this is why many EU countries have continued to support its use,” Syngenta said.

Bayer CropScience — the principal manufacturer of imidacloprid — called the proposal “draconian” and a “missed opportunity to achieve a fair and proportional solution.”

Bayer, of Monheim, Germany, requested EU member states “adhere to the principles of proportionality when addressing the Commission’s proposal and refer back to solid science before taking any measures.”

The company added: “Any disproportionate action would jeopardize the competitiveness of European agriculture and finally lead to higher costs for food, feed, fiber and renewable raw materials and have an enormous economic impact throughout the whole food chain.”