France has decided to take serious steps to protect the bee population and became the first country in Europe which banned the usage of the five pesticides that researchers found to be the most damaging to these insects.
The ban of neonicotinoids has been encouraged by environmentalists and beekeepers; however, sugar beet and cereal farmers emphasize that this could remove the protection of the crops from harmful insects.
The Usage of Pesticides Is Destroying Our Planet
The overuse of pesticides in today’s world has caused a lot of problems in the environment, including the reduction of the bee population in different parts of the world. France has banned the usage of three neonicotinoids in crop fields and greenhouses, as well as two additional pesticides, that is, acetamiprid and thiacloprid.
Even though they were first opposed to the ban, Britain is now backing it up because of data showing the disastrous impact of chemicals to colony collapse disorder. This is a mysterious phenomenon that has caused a reduction in bee populations by up to 90 percent in some cases. The other contributing factors include viruses, fungi, and mites.
The Harmful Neonicotinoids
These pesticides were introduced back in the 90s and they have the chemical structure of nicotine. They attack the insects’ central nervous system. They were intended to replace the older and more damaging pesticides and have become the most commonly used pesticides for the treatment of flowering crops like beets, fruit trees, and vineyards.
However, they reduce the sperm count of bees and mess with their memory and homing skills. Moreover, newest research indicates that bees may become addicted to the insecticides, similarly to smokers addicted to nicotine.
But, there are French farmers that remain angry because they claim that there is insufficient evidence for the decline of bees due to neonicotinoids. What’s more, according to the biggest farming union in France known as FNSEA, farmers have been facing a technical dead-end and are therefore calling for exemptions in sectors without scarce or no alternatives.
They also believe that this prohibition will aggravate the unfair competition with non-European and European producers who can still use the pesticides.
In one report by the public health agency ANSES, there are effective alternatives to most of the neonicotinoids used in France.
The Ban Needs to Spread Further
According to Fabien Van Hoecke, a beekeeper from Brittany who lost 86 percent of his bees during the winter, though the ban was a beneficial step, it will not save us. He believes that the banned pesticides will soon be replaced with others.
And, unfortunately, even though there are campaigns in France to lower the pesticide usage, the use there elevated by 12 percent between the years of 2014 and 2016. Therefore, if adopted, an upcoming French bill on food safety will widen the prohibition to all chemicals which have the same effects.
Unfortunately, the UN has warned that 40 percent of pollinators, especially butterflies and bees are at a risk of global extinction.