European parliament rejects move to relax pesticide rules

In recent years, bee populations around the world have sharply decline. Many believe that the use of pesticides is the main cause, with studies showing that many species of bees and other insects have been lost in regions across the European Union.

Because of this, the European parliament has vetoed proposals by the European Commission to weaken the current rules to protect bees from toxic pesticides. The legislation was blocked by MEPs as they said it ignores the risks of long-term exposure to chemicals.

Instead, MEPs argued that the guidance document issued in 2013 should continue to apply. This guidance sets out ways that bee populations can be protected from short-term and long-term exposure to pesticides that could be damaging and cause harm.

The vote was held after sixteen EU countries campaigned against the guidance. However, Green MEPs led the campaign for the veto, claiming that new pesticides, which are often applied during seed treatment rather than spraying, were particularly dangerous to insects.

The veto was eventually passed, with 533 MEPs voting for, 67 voting against, and 100 abstentions. This result has been welcomed by environmental groups, who point to the fact that bees pollinate over 80% of crops in Europe.

In addition, last year, the EU banned the world’s most commonly used pesticides – neonicotinoids – from all fields. These chemicals were causing harm to queen numbers and it’s believed this was causing a reduction in overall numbers.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, the commissioner for health and food safety, said: “It has to be noted that we have been very strict with neonicotinoids having banned the outdoor use of three of them lately and, following commission’s proposal, another one has been voted down by Member States no later than this week.

“As regards to the Bee Guidance document we have been stuck for several (6) years. The proposal of the Commission that gathered the approval of qualified majority of member states would have allowed to move a few steps forward.

“I understand that the Parliament would have wanted us to move 10 steps forward but we don’t have the support of member states to do this and it is needed also to be sure of implementation. Unfortunately, with Parliament’s negative vote we don’t advance at all. Did the bees win? I am afraid they did not.

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