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European Court upholds ban on pesticides harmful to bees

© Kai Wenzel for Unsplash

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg has rejected an appeal by German chemicals company Bayer against an EU law banning the use of certain pesticides that are considered harmful to bees.

In 2013 the European Commission banned the use of three chemicals – imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The chemicals interfere with the homing systems of bees who pollinate the crops on which they are used. That makes it impossible for them to find their way back to the hive, and the bees die as a result.

The ban affects use on crops that attract bees, like maize, rapeseed and spring cereals. The use is still allowed on crops like sugar beets.

Bayer manufactures products containing two of the banned chemicals, and in 2018 the company started a legal action to have the ban overturned. According to Bayer, the pesticides are used in other parts of the world and have shown to be safe if proper protective measures are used.

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With the ECJ verdict, no further appeal is possible. Bayer expressed disappointment.

The verdict seems to allow the Commission almost carte blanche to review existing approvals upon the slightest evidence, which need not even be new scientific data,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

The company, together with Syngenta which uses thiamethoxam, said it feared the ban would lead to farmers going back to older, less effective pesticides, which would need to be applied in greater quantities to achieve the same effect.

The Court of Justice has reaffirmed that protecting nature and people’s health takes precedence over the narrow economic interests of powerful multinationals,” Greenpeace legal strategist Andrea Carta told Reuters.

Despite the ban, national authorities have granted 206 emergency derogations since it was introduced in 2013 until 2019.