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Europe Gets It Right

April 29, 2013 – Today was a good day.  Today the European Commission voted to ban the use of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids for two years.  Fifteen countries voted for the ban, which is not enough to constitute a “qualified majority.”  That’s the reason for the ban’s two year duration.  The moratorium applies to all member nations of the European Union, and England, and will begin no later than December 1 of this year.  It does not apply to crops that do not attract bees, or to winter crops.  Because it is the seed that is treated, the sale and use of seeds – primarily of corn, soy and canola - are prohibited.  Furthermore, none of this type of pesticide can be sold to amateur growers.
Back in January, the European Food Safety Authority issued a statement regarding the unacceptability of neonicotinoids because of the danger they pose to bees.  Research has found that these pesticides impair bees’ ability to navigate, forage, and communicate; disturb their procreative rhythms, weaken their immune systems, and leave colonies unable to overcome natural threats such as mites and fungi!  Small wonder that these tiny creatures have succumbed to what we ourselves refuse to acknowledge: the chemicals that play such a prominent role in our world will one day be the death of us all.  (For further information regarding chemicals that do great harm, see the article just posted yesterday at , written by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner.)

In looking at how slow we have been to respond to this crisis, you would never know that 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on bees.  According to a 2012 literature review undertaken by scientists writing for the journal Ecotoxicology, these crops have an annual value of $200 billion.  Bee populations are declining by 30 percent every year.  Is $60 billion really so easy to come by?  Based upon our behavior, one would think so.
It would be unfair not to mention that some restrictions are already in force in France, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia.  This becomes particularly important in light of the fact that companies like Bayer and Syngenta – manufacturers of neonicotinoids – like to threaten that, without these newer products, a return to the older, more harmful pesticides previously used is inevitable.  Parties on the other side of the debate respond by pointing to the fact that this has not happened in France, Germany, or Italy (there are no known results for Slovenia), and that natural pest predators and crop rotation have been proven very effective.

Here in the United States, we continue to drag our feet.  The EPA rejected a petition calling for a ban on the sale of Clothianidin, one of the pesticides soon to be banned in the E.U.  How determined is the EPA to ignore the manifest hazards imposed by these chemicals?  So determined that they have promised to issue an evaluation of neonicotinoid safety in 2018.  That’s right, 2018.  This date is a reflection of the American people’s determination to ignore the fact that Bayer and Syngenta carry the EPA around in their collective hip pocket.
It’s a very convenient arrangement.


With thanks to the BBC News and Grist.


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