The European Commission proposed a two-year ban on the insecticides, after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommended that they should only be used ‘on crops not attractive to honey bees’. Member States rejected the proposal in March but a ban could still go ahead through an appeals process.
CEO has revealed a series of letters between EFSA, the Commission and the two companies that produce the insecticides, Syngenta and Bayer, and describes the exchange as ‘furious lobbying’ from the firms. In one such letter, Syngenta says some Member States were “driven by a small group of activists and hobby beekeepers” to suspend the use of neonicotinoids, and urges Commissioner Dalli to resist this pressure.
In another letter addressed to Commissioner Dalli, Syngenta claims that previous concerns about the insecticides’ effect on honeybees were because of inappropriate use by farmers, while a letter sent to EFSA about its communication on its insecticide safety evaluation claims that its press release is “incorrect and contradicts the EFSA’s conclusions.” It adds that if the release is not withdrawn, the company will ‘consider legal options’.
EFSA’s evaluation said that insecticide residues were thought to affect bees by contaminating dust and collecting on nectar and pollen – but added that the report carried a ‘high level of uncertainty’, as a final guidance document for the risk assessment of plant protection products and bees was still being developed.
Meanwhile, the European Crop Protection Agency, which represents the interests of insecticide producers, has said that it is willing to engage with the EU and Member States to help plug data gaps.
It said in a statement: “We fully understand and support concerns over bee health and need to ensure that pesticides do not have any negative impact on them, we believe that the current review process was seriously flawed and that no suspension should have taken effect on this basis."
EFSA’s investigation into insecticides is part of broader research into potential causes of colony collapse disorder, the rapid loss of adult bees from a colony or hive.
The phenomenon could have major implications for the food chain as bees play a crucial role in pollinating many food crops.
Among factors thought to contribute to colony collapse disorder, experts have identified beekeeping and husbandry practices, chemical factors, and biological agents like parasites, viruses and bacteria. However, the respective role of each factor is poorly understood.