France’s National Assembly just narrowly approved a bill that would ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which are largely criticized for possibly causing the decrease in bee populations. The European Union already limited the use of neonicotinoid chemicals, known as neonics, two years ago after studies showed that the pesticides harmed bees, and now France wants to do away with them completely.
The bill, which is a biodiversity bill that is supported by France’s Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Ségolène Royal, would completely ban all use of neonics on crops by September 2018. Other environmental proposals, such as increasing the taxes on palm oil.
Critics of the bill, including the producers of the pesticides, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, have been quick to say that the studies of the neonics’ effects on bee populations are inconclusive and some have offered alternatives to the total ban.
Bayer instilled fear in farmers who regularly use the pesticides by stating, “Some farmers are going to find themselves in a dead-end regarding crop protection … and could see their harvests fall by 15 to 40 percent depending on the crop.” Farmer groups have complained that there are no working alternatives to using neonics and that banning them would reduce their crop yield and put them behind other EU nations.
The Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, announced that he was against the ban and instead said that France should slowly work toward halving pesticide use in the next 7 years. He stated that a total ban in France could hurt farmers in the biggest crop-producing country in the EU.
A bee campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Dave Timms, dismisses the concerns and says, “The scientific evidence against neonicotinoids is growing all the time. Moves in France to tighten restrictions beyond those currently in place across Europe are a sensible response to the threat these pesticides pose to a range of wildlife, including bees.”
Considering the importance of bees for agriculture and, ultimately, global sources of food, this bill could be the start of the realization that nations need to work to restore bee populations rather than continue to destroy them. The bill still must pass through the French Senate, and for the sake of bees and the world as we know it, hopefully it will.