Photo: Flip Franssen
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Harmful neonic pesticides still widely used despite EU-ban

Scientists and activists were euphoric when the EU banned the extremely harmful neonic pesticides in 2018. During the next three years, sixteen EU countries used a legal loophole to circumvent the ban. Research by The Investigative Desk shows that they succumbed to the united lobby of farmers, the sugar industry and pesticide manufacturers.

By Tomas Vanheste and Tim Luimes

‘We won!,’ scientists and activists exclaimed on the 27th of April, 2018. ‘Save the Bees’ had collected almost four and a halve million signatures for a ban on neonics. While it protested against the harmful nenonic pesticides in front of the Berlaymont building, the European Commission indeed decided to ban them. ‘We can still save bees from extinction.’

In the years before, evidence was piling up that showed how ‘neonics’ – one of the most intensively used categories of pesticides in the world – contributed to the decline of bees and had a disastrous effect on many other insects, on birds en even on mammals.

The activists were delirious: ‘This decision is a beacon of hope.’ But sugar beet farmers experienced it as a black day. ‘Neonics’ might be harmful to insects, they are also tremendously effective for controlling pests.

The sugar industry managed to convince the Belgian government to continue permitting the use of neonics. Belgium and 15 other countries, among which France and Germany, used a legal loophole in the European law. So far, the Netherlands has not, but the Dutch sugar industry is lobbying the government to change that.

Read the full story (in Dutch) at Knack and Vrij Nederland.

7 juli 2021

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