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Bees still at risk, as EU chemicals ban flouted

Published: 9 March 2017 - Fiona Garcia

European countries have found a way around the ban on so-called bee-harming chemicals in pesticides, taking advantage of a legal loophole that allows “emergency authorisations”.

 

According to a report put together by Client Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Bee Life and ROMAPIS, EU countries are ignoring the ban on four pesticides, including three neonicotinoids, which have been deemed to be highly toxic to bees and continue to use these chemicals. The report found that, since the ban was enforced in 2013, 62 derogations have been granted through the “emergency authorisations” process under Article 53.

It was ruled that special permissions, or “emergency authorisations”, to use banned or non-approved pesticides should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, such as when a danger to crops or the environment leaves the EU Member State with no other choice other than to use the pesticide. However, the report asserts that this mechanism is being abused and “exploited by the pesticides industry to continue to promote the use of banned pesticides due to the lack of resistance by Member States.”

Over 80% of requests were said to be made by, or “with participation from”, the industry. This use of the request process is not in line with The Commission’s guidelines, which said applications must not be made to satisfy industry’s financial interests.

Applications should be subject to scrutiny from the commission, with evidence required to prove emergency circumstances and justify a request to use pesticides containing the banned chemicals. However, the group’s report finds that 82% of country notifications did not provide any economic evidence of a threat to plant production or ecosystems, and 79% did not list an alternative means of pest control.

Meanwhile, a requirement to even identify the infested area was breached in more than 60% of cases and most countries provided no evidence that the neonicotinoids would be used in a limited and controlled way.

Given the exemptions were intended to help farmers facing sudden infestations, and EU states protecting ecosystems from exotic pests,  most worrying to environmentalists will be the news that 44% of requests for derogations were filed solely by pesticide manufacturers, trade associations or seed producers. In fact, just 14% were filed without any industry involvement.

The group claims that, while the European Commission is aware of this abuse of the loophole, it is not using its power to stop or limit the harm to bees.

One of the authors, ClientEarth lawyer Dominique Doyle believes The European Commission is, turning a blind eye to industry influence, by accepting applications from, or backed by pesticides manufacturers, including Bayer, Syngenta. Meanwhile Bayer, Syngenta and BASF have continued to fight Commission decisions to ban the bee-harming pesticides in court since 2013.

New regulations on the sale and use of rodenticides have also come into effect, with ongoing reviews of active ingredients in a number of rodenticide products. Read more in our pest control feature in the March 10 issue of DIY Week. 

 

 

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