AFTER failing to win majority support from member countries, the European Commission struck out on a proposal to ban the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides.
Due to concerns over the pesticides' potential effects on bees, the commission had proposed a two-year ban based on a recommendation from the European Food Safety Authority.
Without the support of countries such as the U.K. and Germany, the proposal failed to achieve the required majority for adoption. While environmentalists who championed the ban were disappointed, the crop protection industry hailed the decision.
"This shows that member states are doubtful about the proportionality of the measures proposed by the commission," Friedhelm Schmider, director general of the European Crop Protection Assn., said. "The measures would clearly have an impact on expected yield, economic growth and jobs, with no improvement on bee health."
While Schmider said his group fully understands and supports concerns for bee health, scientific evidence from countries where "realistic" field monitoring was done and proper risk mitigation measures were implemented found that neonicotinoids can be used safely without dangerous risks to bee colony health.
Lacking the full support of European Union member states for the proposed ban, the commission must now decide whether to appeal the decision or amend the proposal.
"We are pleased that EU member states did not support the European Commission's shamefully political proposal," Syngenta chief operating officer John Atkin said. "Restricting the use of this vital crop protection technology will do nothing to help improve bee health."
Syngenta urged the European Commission to broaden efforts to tackle the many and varied causes of recent declines in bee colony health rather than continuing to focus on pesticides as the primary concern. The company said the commission's own data showed that pesticides play a negligible role in threatening bee colonies compared to diseases, viruses and loss of habitat.
A spokesman for the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs told The Guardian that "decisions must be based on sound, scientific evidence, and rushing this through could have serious unintended consequences both for bees and for food production."
Last week, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience proposed a plan of action to help unlock what the companies called the EU's "stalemate" on bee health.
The plan calls for larger field margins, a comprehensive field monitoring program, strict measures to mitigate bees' exposure risk and increased investment to develop both new technologies and new solutions targeting the main factors affecting bee health.