Rejection of the Pesticide Ban: What Now for Bees?

by Lucy Hagger

On Wednesday I posted about the proposed ban of three neonicotinoid pesticides across Europe due to the hugely detrimental effect they are having on bees. Feel free to read the article as it includes a lot more information about the ban itself and why it had been proposed in the first place.

The ban was proposed by the European Commission but was today rejected due to a majority decision failing to be reached. 13 EU governments voted for the ban and 9 voted against. I feel some kind of hope that more governments did vote in favour of the ban, it is just unfortunate that this number was not quite high enough for the ban to be approved. 5 countries abstained from the vote, and that included the UK and Germany.

There has been much media coverage surrounding this issue recently. The UK Environmental Secretary, Owen Paterson has received a lot of negative attention due to his responses relating to the ban. He has even received criticism from his position predecessor John Gummer who said: “If ever there were an issue where the precautionary principle ought to guide our actions, it is in the use of neonicotinoids. Bees are too important to our crops to continue to take this risk.” In my opinion I feel Owen Paterson acted rather cowardly by abstaining from the vote, claiming that he did so due to a need for more research into the area. You only have to type “bees and neonicotinoids” into Google to realise there is a wealth of research surrounding the topic.

Researcher Prof Dave Goulson led research in this field and has claimed that neonicotinoid over-reliance is posing an “unacceptable risk to bees”. I feel this is another case of politicians being ignorant to the findings of researchers. With only one MP in the country having a scientific background is this really surprising?

With nearly 3/4 of Britons voting for the ban on a poll by Avaaz, it is not only those in the field of science likely to be disappointed, but also a huge proportion of the British and European public. Iain Keith from Avaaz has voiced his opinion on the matter stating that “today’s vote flies in the face of science and public opinion and maintains the disastrous chemical armageddon on bees, which are critical for the future of our food.”

It is time for the large chemical companies like Bayer and Syngenta to accept that the world cannot continue their over reliance on their products forever. But as this case has shown, this will not be happening for a long time. These corporations are too concerned with the short term and give little to no interest to future gain from present loss. This isn’t exactly surprising, they are a business and they have money in mind. But will they be happy to be remembered in this way? I don’t really think they care, and that is a great shame.

This has all rather depressed me a bit. Sadly this is only one story in an enormous book of similarly grim cases that we can be certain is unfinished. But I do feel there is a light in the dark, a tiny glimmer of hope. That is the number of governments that did vote in favour of the ban and the huge public support that backed this ban. No, this was not enough to make a difference, but awareness of the state of our world is increasing and hopefully will continue to rise.