NPR : News

Europe Bans Pesticides In Move To Protect Honey Bees

Three popular pesticides will soon be illegal in the European Union, where officials hope the change helps restore populations of honey bees, vital to crop production, to healthy levels. The new ban will be enacted in December.

"I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over ?22 billion ($28.8 billion) annually to European agriculture, are protected," said EU Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg.

Two European producers of the banned pesticides, Bayer of Germany and Sygenta of Switzerland, have said their products aren't to blame for the bees' decline. Called neonicotinoids, the pesticides will no longer be approved for use in European crops that include corn, rapeseed, and cotton.

Earlier this year, a European Food Safety Authority report found that the pesticides — clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam — presented a risk to bees when they are exposed to the dust, pollen, or nectar of some treated crops.

In the U.S., a group of environmentalists and beekeepers have sued the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the use of two of the pesticides, as NPR's Dan Charles recently reported.

The pesticides are "used to coat the seeds of many agricultural crops, including the biggest crop of all: corn," Dan reported. "Neonics, as they're called, protect those crops from insect pests."

Critics of the pesticides say that while small doses of the chemicals may not be immediately toxic to bees, they disrupt the bees' ability to work with their colonies, eventually leading to weakened hives that can't sustain themselves — or pollinate plants.

"However, pesticide manufacturers and some scientists say no link has been proven between the use of neonicotinoids and a sharp decline in bee numbers in Europe in recent years," Reuters reports, "a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder."

When the European Union's member states voted on the issue, a qualified majority could not be reached, with 15 of the union's 27 member states voting in favor. But its executive European Commission decided to move ahead with the ban, and to review its effects within two years.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


From A Weirdo Nerd To A Guy Who Plays One On TV

NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with the actor Rainn Wilson about his new memoir, The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy.

How Long Can Florida's Citrus Industry Survive?

The USDA recently stunned growers when it projected the smallest orange harvest for Florida in more than 50 years. The culprit: A tiny insect that's killing off the state's trees — and industry.

Snapshots 2016: Trump's Message Resonates With A Master Cabinet Maker

From time to time during this election season we'll be introducing you to ordinary people that our reporters meet out on the campaign trail. Today: a snapshot from a Donald Trump rally in New Hampshire.

Someday A Helicopter Drone May Fly Over Mars And Help A Rover

NASA is building a 2-pound helicopter drone that would help guide the vehicle on the Red Planet's surface. That way, the rover wouldn't need to wander as much to find its way around.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.