On pesticides we must let science lead the way

May 23, 2017

From: Daniel Dalton, MEP for the West Midlands


Now, in a case study of how the EU really works, the EU is involved and is threatening to ban these pesticides. The story started several years ago in France, when the government there, keen to keep the green support to prop up the government, agreed to the green demand to ban three neonicotinoids, citing several arguments (not backed up by scientific evidence) that they affect bee populations.

Very quickly French farmers became uncompetitive in the European single market against farmers in countries that still used these chemicals, and so the French government lobbied the European Commission to make the ban an EU ban. The Commission, which at the time contained an Agriculture Commissioner schooled in France, quickly agreed to the ban and in 2013 a temporary ban was put in place on those three neonicotinoids.

The evolution of this ban has very little to do with science or with protecting bees and a lot to do with political coalition building in France.


This proposed ban makes no sense for many reasons; notably because it will substantially raise the cost of food but also because food produced from outside the EU using these pesticides will still be allowed into the EU, completely undercutting our farmers and putting their livelihoods in peril as they will not be on a level playing field. However, the biggest reason why this proposal lacks any rational reasoning is because there is no actual evidence that neonicotinoids pose any threat to bees at all.

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder has been around for many years. In fact, many cases were recorded before pesticides even existed. Recent studies have demonstrated that declines amongst wild bees are driven mostly by land use changes, habitat loss, climate change, viruses and diseases and have not increased since neonicotinoids were introduced in the 1990s. After almost 20 years of research there has been no evidence that neonicotinoids pose any threat to bee colonies.

It is worth highlighting the fact that neonicotinoids are the latest and most modern pesticides. They are more effective and less harmful to the environment than previous generations and they also can be used in far smaller quantities.

Yet if the EU bans them, farmers will have to use the older, less environmentally friendly insecticides which have also been proven to be far less effective in their main job: keeping pests off crops.

Indeed, an internal report by the Commission’s own Joint Research Centre (JRC) cites that there is evidence the current EU ban on neonicotinoids “has been disastrously counterproductive”.


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