The EU failed to reach a majority vote to ban the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides labelled harmful to bees
by the EFSA on Friday, after nations including the UK and Germany either abstained or opposed the proposal.
The UK's abstention was in line with the government's previous stance that there was not sufficient evidence to justify a ban. The ongoing debate about the dangers of neonicotinoids has divided the gardening and DIY industry, with high profile retailers
including B&Q, Dobbies, Homebase, Wickes, the Garden Centre Group and, recently, Wilkinsons, all pulling the products from their shelves.
The HTA and GCA, meanwhile, have rallied alongside the UK government and garden supplier Bayer CropScience, whose Lawn Grub Killer contains one of the three neonicotinoids in question, on the other side of the argument.
Friends of the Earth, who have been vocal
in their campaign to remove the products from the market, called Friday's result a "cop-out". Head of campaigns Andrew Pendelton added: "It means yet more dither and delay while our bee populations plummet. UK ministers dragged their feet over ash trees, now they risk doing the same with bees.
"There is more than enough evidence that these chemicals are linked to bee decline to place immediate restrictions on their use. The UK government could and should follow the example of retailers and take action to ban these products."
Bayer, meanwhile, has welcomed the result, saying it "provides hope to European farmers that they can continue to have access to safe and effective crop protection products supporting their ability to grow safe, high-quality, affordable food."
In a statement, the supplier added: "The failure to reach a conclusive decision is a clear recognition that there is no convincing argument against the continuing use of neonicotinoid-based products. Bayer CropScience believes this response provides an opportunity to reach a fair and just outcome as the European Commission has relied too heavily on the precautionary principle, without taking the principle of proportionality into account.
"Not only had the Commission incorrectly based their rationale on recent EFSA reviews of these products, they had failed to make the appropriate impact assessments of any decisions they proposed on the broader interests of European stakeholders."
Bayer added that when neonicotinoids are used "responsibily and properly, any impact on bees is negligible."
The GCA, meanwhile, said it was unsurprised by the outcome of the EU vote. "When the debate first surfaced... we had to weight up the evidence very carefully. After consideration we decided not to ask members to withdraw the products from their shelves so we are not surprised that the European Union voted against a ban on neonicotinoids last week.
"However, since the debate hit, most of our members have voluntarily removed Provado Lawn Grub Killer.
"We understand that the British Beekeeper Association (BBA) and other professional bodies have not yet called for the products to be withdrawn from the market and we are happy to take a steer from the professionals.
"We are urging our members to read the HTA information sheet on the topic and to be aware of the controversies surrounding the issue.
"The GCA and our members are committed to helping protect bees, promote conservation and support wildlife so we will continue to check for new research into the topic and will keep members posted if new information comes to light. We do feel it is up to individual members to decide what they wish to do within their own garden centres."
The HTA said that as the vote was inconclusive, "it is unclear what the European Commission can/will do until further scientific evidence emerges."
According to the FOE, the debate is likely to return to the EC. Web campaign group Avaaz has vowed to step up the pressure on the UK government and others who abstained or opposed the vote, and has already send over 400,000 messages to EU ministers urging them to adopt the ban.