After several delays on voting, a majority of European Union member states voted in favour of added restrictions on outdoor neonicotinoid use on Friday.
Restrictions on neonic use within the EU were first introduced in 2013. Similar to restrictions in Canada, imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam were first restricted for use on corn wheat, barley, oats, and oilseed rape. The new regulations will further restrict use on any field crops, including sugar beets.
Neonicotinoids will still be allowed for indoor use in greenhouses across the EU. Other neonics, including thiacloprid and acetamiprid, are exempt from the ban.
The BBC reports that the UK’s decision last November to support the near-total ban was the change in momentum needed to move the yeas past the nays.
The European Commission’s extension of the ban “is a regrettable decision that is not justified by the evidence” notes the National Farmers Union in the UK.
The NFU’s Chris Hartfield is quoted by the BBC as saying, “The Commission hasn’t been able to find that these restrictions have delivered any measurable benefits for bees. That has been a big question for us, and if we can’t be certain they can deliver measurable benefits, why are we doing this?
“We’re not decreasing our consumption of that product; we are just importing it from outside Europe, where it is often treated with neonicotinoids. I would expect to see that continue.”
Bayer and Syngenta — companies that sell neonics in Europe — are calling the decision “a bad deal for Europe” and “a decision that takes European farming in the wrong direction.”
“Bayer is surprised that, once again, legislative measures are being implemented without a prior thorough impact assessment. Beyond the costs for European farmers, the restrictions in place have already brought considerable unintended consequences: a lack of alternative solutions; more spray applications, leading to more CO2 emissions; an increased risk of resistant pest insects; and a return to older, less-effective chemicals,” says a statement from Bayer.
Bayer questions the timing of the decision, as a verdict in a court case scrutinizing the legal basis of the original neonic restrictions in 2013 is due on May 17th.
Syngenta calls the decision “disappointing, but not unexpected,” noting the Commission relied on an “unapproved regulatory document” called the Bee Risk Guidance Document, which the company says is “so far removed from the reality of agriculture that its application would see most, if not all agricultural chemicals banned, including for example, those used in organic agriculture.”
The EU Commission says it will adopt the new regulations in the coming weeks.
In Canada, neonics have recently been restricted in both Ontario and Quebec, requiring added scouting and assessment before farmers may access neonic-treated corn and soybean seed. Health Canada is also reviewing the registrations for imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, and has proposed a three-year “phase-out” of imidacloprid in Canada (a final decision is expected later this year.)