Neonicotinoids update: No qualified majority reached at meeting of EU Member States' experts

As announced by the European Commission, a ban on three nenicotinoids (NNI) - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam was submitted on Friday (15 March) to Member States' experts on the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health / Pesticide residues.

This vote is the Commission's response to the publication by EFSA of a report which identified "high acute risks" for bees as regards exposure to dust in several crops such as maize, cereals and sunflower, to residue in pollen and nectar in crops like oilseed rape and sunflower and to guttation in maize.

What the Commission submitted to Member States was as follows :

1) amend the conditions of approval of the 3 NNI in order to restrict the use only to crops non attractive to bees and to winter cereals (as dust exposure during autumn is not considered a major issue).

2) prohibit the sale and use of "seeds treated" with plant protection products containing these active substances(provision not to apply to treated seeds of plants non attractive to bees and to treated seeds of winter cereals).

3) both measures referred to in points 1) and 2) to be implemented at the latest by 1 July 2013 (thus not affecting the forthcoming sowing season for maize).

4) prohibit the sale and use to "amateurs". Only professional uses to remain allowed.

5) To review of both measures by the Commission after two years.

Commission to review the conditions of approval of the three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiametoxam and imidacloprid) - as soon as new information is available - to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.

6) Exceptions to be limited to the possibility to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses at any time and in open field only after flowering.

Result of the vote:

The Commission put the text to the vote and no qualified majority was reached either in favour or against the text (the Commission will not detail individual Member States' votes).

In a statement the Comission said it takes note of the Member States' response to its proposal but remains committed to ambitious and proportionate legislative measures. 

The services of European Commissioner Tonio Borg will now consider the next steps.

Explaining the UK's abstention, a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs said: "Bee health is extremely important but sound scientific evidence and rushing this through could have serious unintended consequences both for bees and for food production. We are not opposing the EU's proposals. But as we do not have the evidence et it is impossible for us to vote either way."

The news that no qualified majority had been reached was met with dismay by campaigners for a ban on neonicotinoids. 

The Soil Association said: "It's a terrible day for bees that the EU couldn't decide to ban three neonicotinoid pesticides because a qualified majority was not reached....This failure by EU governments makes the forthcoming report from the House of Commons environmental audit committee all the more important. We hope this report recognises the large body of scientific evidence against neonicotinoids and recommends strong and immediate action from UK government."

Friends of the Earth described the outcome as a "cop-out by a significant number of European governments, including the UK."  It added: "It means yet more dither and delay while our bee populations plummet."







EFSA's report is available here:

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

HW Top UK Arboriculture Businesses

See our exclusive RANKING of arboriculture businesses by annual turnover. 


Build your business with the latest public sector tenders covering landscape, arboriculture, grounds care, production and kit supplies. To receive the latest tenders weekly to your inbox sign up for our Tenders Tracker bulletin here.


Find out more about the outstanding parks, gardens and arboricultural projects and teams that became our Custodian Award 2019 winners.

Jeremy Barrell On...

Jeremy Barrell

Tree consultant Jeremy Barrell reflects on the big issues in arboriculture.

Products & Kit Resources