Attempt to block complete ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides thrown out by MEPs

MEPs have rejected an attempt by UK MEP Julie Girling to oppose a full ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides.

Some 43 MEPs on the Environment Committee voted against the proposal by Girling, which was against plans by the European Commission to extend current restrictions on three neonicotinoid pesticides to all crops. Eight MEPs backed the motion, with 7 abstentions.

Girling wanted the European Parliament to pass a series of 'objections' to the Commission's ban proposals, which she argues have not been supported by sufficient legal and scientific evidence.

Girling said the plan for a complete ban was "disproportionate" and warned it could lead to the increased use of other pesticides.

In March it was reported that draft regulations stated the Commission was likely to call for a 'near complete ban' of the three pesticides from EU member states.

A partial ban on three neonicotinoids has been in place across the EU since 2013.

The MEPs did not have the power to prevent this from happening but a vote against the move could have put the Commission under pressure over the issue.

The neonicotinoids in question are: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam on all outdoor crops.

Speaking at Cereals 2017, in June, Dr Chris Hartfield, NFU acting chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said such a ban would affect around one million hectares of arable crops, including cereals and sugar beet, where there are no effective alternatives to neonicotinoid seed treatments. It would also affect a significant area of vegetable crops.

Hartfield said: "We have a small window of opportunity following the General Election before serious discussions happen on this subject in Brussels.

"We need to use this time to reinforce the fact that there is still no clear evidence that neonicotinoids are causing widespread declines in bee populations and that a blanket ban, as well as being unjustified scientifically, would also have a significant impact on sustainable productive agriculture in the UK.

"It’s important MPs, as well as MEPs, know what impact a ban would have so they can make Defra aware of the need for the UK to vote against this proposal. We need farmers to write to MPs and MEPs, visit surgeries to speak to them, and invite them out on farm to show them why these products are so important.

"There is no evidence that neonicotinoid bans to date have measurably improved pollinator health. Experts at the world-leading agricultural research station at Rothamsted have recently questioned the evidence behind neonicotinoid bans and re-iterated that it still does not provide a clear steer for policy-makers.

"It is vital we use science and good evidence to ensure we find appropriate and balanced ways to tackle problems facing bees and other pollinators that will really benefit their populations. Otherwise we risk making changes based on popular opinion that don’t actually help bees, but do have costs for the supply chain and unintended consequences for the environment."

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