HTA dismay at EU vote on neonicotinoids

The ban will apply to three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on bee attractive plants and cereals. The restrictions will not apply to crops non-attractive to bees, or to winter cereals, and there will be potential exemptions for professional use to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses and in open-air fields after flowering.  The Commission will review the conditions of approval of the pesticides as soon as new information is available or at the latest within two years.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of the ban, eight against (including the UK) and four countries abstained.  Although inconclusive, this provided an “unqualified majority” which enables the Commission to push ahead with its proposals.   The UK voted against the ban after publishing its own research last month on the impact of neonicotinoids on bumble bees in the field which concluded that bees are not harmed under normal use and circumstances.

Commenting on this HTA Director of Business Development Tim Briercliffe said, “It is disappointing that the Commission has failed to take into account Defra’s latest research on the impact of neonicotinoids on bumble bees in the field which concluded that there is minimal risk under existing conditions of regulated use.  Furthermore, we believe the level of exposure is of a magnitude lower for bees in gardens, and there is no scientific justification for the removal of these products from amateur garden use.”

He adds, “We congratulate the UK Government in voting against the ban until the scientific evidence justifies it, and we are disappointed that the European Commission is pushing through with it in the absence of such evidence.  In our view this is an unwarranted attack on gardeners leaving garden plants even more open to pest infestation.  It is worrying to see the Commission capitulating to an irrational debate that doesn’t take account of the evidence.  This is a worrying precedent for the future of European decision making on pesticide issues.”