April 29 - Europe has voted to ban three of the world's most widely used chemicals for two years after EU scientists said there were links to the decline in bee populations, crucial to the pollination of crops. Joanne Nicholson reports.
There was a buzz around Brussels on Monday after the European Commission voted to restrict the use of pesticides thought to be harmful to bees. The Commission proposed the ban in January after EU scientists said a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids posed an acute risk to honeybees, which are important because they pollinate crops. Christoph Schott is from the environmental campaign, Avaaz. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ENVIRONMENTAL NGO AVAAZ CAIMPAGNER, CHRISTOPH SCHOTT, SAYING: 'It was a very hard fought battle, there were countries like Germany that abstained the last time and now they switched to a yes and even asked for stronger measures in Germany, so we saw a shift in for example Spain and Germany to a yes that we didn't expect." Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban but they failed to reach the weighted majority needed to adopt the ban outright, so it was passed to the Commission. The UK did not support a ban, arguing the scientific research was inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four abstained. Beekeepers have led a passionate campaign on the issue. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NON-PROFESSIONAL BEEKEEPER, LILIANE VAN REMOORTERE, SAYING: "The mortality of the bees, the high mortality of the bees in Belgium, or in Europe, is the result of the pesticides going into the nectar of the plants and being absorbed by the bees. The result is that these pesticides destroyed their sense of orientation in the brain, they cannot return to the bee hive and they die." The chemicals are produced by Germany's Bayer, and Swiss company, Syngenta. The ban will apply to the use of neonicotinoids on all crops except winter cereals and plants not attractive to bees, such as sugar beet. It would apply from December 1 - five months later than originally proposed by the Commission.