Three insecticides believed to be harmful to bees
are set to be partially banned in the European Union, after 15 member
states on Monday gave their blessing to the measure.
The votes were not enough to attain the needed qualified majority, leaving the European Commission to make the final decision.
"I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion euros (29 billion dollars) annually to European agriculture, are protected," the commission's top health official, Tonio Borg, said in a statement after the vote.
Bees pollinate many crops, which means that any decrease in their numbers poses economic and food-supply concerns.
"Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks," Borg said.
The proposal foresees a two-year restriction on the use of the three insecticides - called neonicotinoids and produced by chemical giants Bayer and Syngenta - in four crops that are most attractive to bees: sunflower, maize, rapeseed and cotton.
The ban would apply from December 1.
EFSA had found that the three insecticides - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam - had "acute" effects on bee populations. But farming organizations and the pesticides industry were among those lobbying against any ban.
Environmental groups welcomed the ban. The Pesticide Action Network spoke of a "historical vote" and "a strong signal given by Europe to protect the environment in the long run."
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