The Telegraph reports that France will take a radical step towards protecting its dwindling bee population on Saturday by becoming the first country in Europe to ban all five pesticides researchers believe are killing off the insects.
The story goes on to say the move to ban the five so-called neonicotinoids has been hailed by beekeepers and environmentalists, but cereal and sugar beet farmers warn it could leave them all but defenceless in protecting valuable crops against other harmful insects.
An article at inhabitat confirms-
The EU led the charge by banning three of the pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. However, France took it one step further by also banning thiacloprid and acetamiprid in all farming activities, including greenhouses.
The neonicotinoids (with a similar structure to nicotine) were introduced in the 1990s and work by attacking the central nervous system of the insects. With the same chemical being dusted on plants that bees target, they also ingest it.
Researchers report that neonicotinoids are responsible for a lower sperm count in bees, cutting reproduction rates. Other reports have shown how the chemicals interfere with memory and homing skills, resulting in bees flying away and not returning to the hive.
The latest research suggests bees may find the toxic chemicals addictive, keeping them returning for more.
However, the Bee Culture website warns that “Both beekeepers and environmentalists have praised the move, but others, including cereal and sugar beet farmers have issued stark warnings about the move instead. They have warned that their crops could well be left defenseless against harmful insects aside from bees that destroy their produce.
The decline of the bee population has partly been blamed on the use of pesticides, which has led to a phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder.” Exposure to pesticides not only kills bees, but those that survive are left with weakened immune systems as a result, leaving them much more vulnerable to diseases.
The Telegraph comments that others believe the ban should go further.
“There are pesticides all over the place,” Fabien Van Hoecke, a beekeeper in Saint-Aloué in Brittany, who lost 86 per cent of his bees over the winter. While the ban was “a good thing, it won’t save us,” he told AFP, predicting that as soon as they are withdrawn, they will be “replaced by others”.
Despite campaigns to reduce pesticides, France increased their use by 12 per cent between 2014 and 2016. An upcoming French food safety bill, if adopted, will widen the ban to all chemical substances that act in the same way.
The United Nations warned last year that 40 per cent of invertebrate pollinators – particularly bees and butterflies – risk global extinction.
The Balance of Evidence
IFL Science points out that one extensive real-world experiment in 2017 also suggested that the use of neonicotinoids might harm honey bee populations in the wild. That said, the data was not overwhelmingly conclusive, adding further controversy to this long saga.
One of the leading voices hoping to downplay the negative effects of neonicotinoids in the experiment was Bayer, the chemical giant that manufactures imidacloprid.
However, by and large, the balance of evidence is still firmly weighed against the case for neonicotinoids. The majority of ecologists, environmentalists, and bee-lovers have been asking for this kind of action for years. Earlier this summer in June, over 230 scientists signed an open letter pledging lawmakers to restrict the use of neonicotinoids.
“It’s reached a point where it’s getting silly to deny that there is a link between these pesticides and harm to bees. There’s so much evidence now,” Professor Dave Goulson, a bumblebee ecologist at the University of Sussex, told IFLScience in 2017.
Through the enforcement of this ban, France has moved beyond the clear boundaries set by the European Union. While the EU had outlawed only three neonicotinoids, the country went on to ban all five of them.
Furthermore, this ban is applicable not only in outdoor fields but within greenhouses too.
Britain had initially opposed this ban. Eventually, though they came around after more evidence surfaced supporting this. More so, after researchers found out that these pesticides cause the mysterious “colony collapse disaster” among bees in Europe and elsewhere.
In this phenomenon, big communities of bees suddenly die. Apart from the pesticides, this might also be caused by fungi, viruses, and mites.
Furthermore, the bees have been seen to get addicted to these harmful pesticides; just like we’re addicted to nicotine or other similar substances.
Those synthetic neonicotinoids have a similar structure to nicotine. Since their introduction in the mid-90s, those chemicals have been attacking the insects’ central nervous systems.
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