EU holds fire on pesticide ban over bees

A DECISION yesterday by the European Commission not to act on a report identifying “high acute risks” for bees from the use of a pesticide seed dressing divided Scottish MEPs, with George Lyon welcoming the news and Alyn Smith calling it a disappointing result.

The EC decision was based on there being no majority in the member states in favour of a ban on the neonicotinoids which are used to protect seed from soil-borne pests.

The voting is believed to have been nine member states, including Germany and the UK voting against any action, nine in favour of a ban and nine expressing no view.

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The vote was the Commission’s response to the publication by the European Food Safety Authority of a report which identified “high acute risks” for bees as regards exposure to dust in several crops such as maize, cereals and sunflower, to residue in pollen and nectar in crops like oilseed rape.

Lyon said he was pleased that commonsense had prevailed. “The call for a ban was a knee-jerk reaction and it was based on incomplete science.”

However, Smith said the “precautionary principle” should have been engaged.

NFUS policy manager Andrew Bauer, said: “It is likely that the EU Commission will send the proposal to an appeals committee next week and, if there is no qualified majority agains the proposals, they will prevail.

“If this happens, farmers will face severe restrictions in their use of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid and may have to use other products instead; the alternative options could be less effective and pose a greater risk to non-target species and the wider environment.”

l The scale of the TB epidemic in England and Wales was revealed this week with the publication by the department for the environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) of the latest figures which showed more than 38,000 cattle were slaughtered last year, a 10 per cent rise in the number taken out the previous year.

The majority of those killed, 28,000, came from English farms, leaving NFU president Peter Kendall to state the figures hammered home the fact that TB was out of control and that existing control measures were not coping.

“TB is one of the largest threats facing our beef and dairy farmers. In 1998 we had 6,000 cattle with TB in the whole of Great Britain. From today we see that by the end of 2012 this figure has jumped to 38,010 – 28,284 in England alone.”

Kendall pointed out that the disease was no longer confined to the “hot spot” areas as it was creeping into new areas like the north and east Midlands, Cheshire and the south-east.