In response to a Jan. 16 report by the European Food Safety Authority stating that the neonicotinoid insecticides pose a high acute risk to bees through the nectar and pollen of some treated crops and through drifting dust, the European Commission, the European Union’s (EU) executive arm, proposed a suspension on the use of three neonicotinoids on sunflowers, rapeseed, corn and cotton.        

To counter this proposal, Bayer AG and Syngenta AG, producers of these products, outlined an action plan to improve bee health in the EU.

“Banning these products would not save a single hive and it is time that everyone focused on addressing the real causes of declining bee populations,” John Atkin, Syngenta’s chief operating officer, was cited as saying in a statement. “The plan is based on our confidence in the safety of our products.”  

 

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The key features of the plan are:

1. Significantly scale up the creation of pollen rich, flowering field margins across the EU, to provide essential habitat and nutrition for bees.

2. Support for the establishment of a comprehensive field monitoring program for bee health, including the detection of neonicotinoid crop protection products – particularly in maize, oilseed rape, sunflower and cotton.

3. Mandatory implementation of strict measures to mitigate the exposure risk to bees; these are currently already recommended by the manufacturers and effectively applied by most farmers as good agricultural practice.

4. Investment in, and implementation of, at the earliest opportunity, new technologies which further reduce dust emissions from the planting of seed treated with neonicotinoid crop protection products.

5. Further investment in the research and development of new solutions for the main factors affecting bee health, which include parasites and viruses, and establishment of area-wide, long-term pilot studies which demonstrate their effectiveness.                                                                                        

Similar efforts to ban the neonicotinoids by anti-pesticide groups also are under way in the United States.

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