In May 2018 the EU banned three of the significant pesticides implicated in the collapse of bee populations. Clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are now prohibited for use on crops. However, France has gone a step further and set the high bar in the effort to save the bees. Given the importance of pollinators to nature and the survival of the biosphere, this could not happen too soon!
Studies have reported that the neonicotinoid pesticides attack the central nervous system of insects, leading to loss of memory and homing skills, in addition to reduced fertility. Bees that cannot find their way back to the hive quickly die. However, the pesticides have also been shown to affect butterflies, birds and other pollinating insects.
Pollination is essential to our agricultural system. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or the FAO, estimated 10 years ago that of the slightly more than 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food supplies for 146 countries, 71 of these crop species are bee-pollinated -- largely by wild bees -- and several others are pollinated by thrips, wasps, flies, beetles, moths, and other insects.
There is a reason why France is ahead of the field in this regard: The "bee killing" pesticides were tested first on French fields in the 1990's - and the French farmers witnessed first-hand the catastrophic effects that occurred in 1994; describing "a carpet of dead bees". 400,000 bee colonies died within days - yet the story was buried under a layer of corruption and distorted science. Since that time, activists and manufacturers have battled to control the situation.
In 2008, Germany revoked the registration of clothianidin for use on seed corn after an accidental release that resulted in the death of millions of nearby honey bees.
Another of the first countries affected was Italy. The neonicotinoids were banned from use after bee die-offs before the 2009 growing season - and Italy's 2009 corn sowing was neonicotinoid-free corn. What did they find? "No cases of widespread bee mortality in apiaries around the crops. This had not happened since 1999." In 2010, one year after the ban was enforced, bee populations were reported to have "bounced back". Moreno Greatti, from the University of Udine stated, "Bee hives have not suffered depopulation and mortality coinciding with maize sowing this year. Beekeepers from Northern Italy and all over the country are unanimous in recognizing that the suspension of neonicotinoid- and fipronil-coated maize seeds."
The new move is certain to be celebrated by ecologists and sets an example of protection of nature that the rest of the world needs to follow.