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#SaveTheBees coalition: 80 EU NGOs gather to demand a full ban on neonicotinoids

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In December 2013, the European Commission restricted the use of three highly bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, namely imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. On the 4th anniversary of the partial ban on these substances, new scientific knowledge confirms that these restrictions do not go far enough.

Therefore, more than 80 EU NGOs are gathering to ask EU decision-makers to completely ban neonicotinoids without further delay. A proposal from the European Commission to extend the ban to all outdoor crops will be discussed on 12-13 December and member states may be asked to vote on the proposal.

The UK, Ireland and France have recently indicated that they support a tougher ban but other member states have not made their positions known.     The Commission’s proposal is based on the conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority that bees are at risk from neonicotinoid use on all outdoor crops not only from use on flowering crops that they are feeding directly on.  Several new studies also show how neonicotinoids contaminate the environment and can be found in water and wildflowers putting wildlife at risk.

Martin Dermine, PAN Europe’s pollinator expert said: "In 2013, there was enough evidence to totally ban neonicotinoids. Their toxicity is not compatible with sustainable food production. Our bees and insect populations in general need special attention as their decline is dramatic. Evidence shows that, despite scaremongering information spread by the pesticide industry, the 2013 restrictions did not lead to any reduction in crop yields. There is thus no point to maintain their use and the environmental collapse they generate."

In 1994, when imidacloprid was first authorized on sunflowers in France, French beekeepers immediately noticed the major negative impact of these chemicals on the health of their hives. Sunflower fields shifted from being a major source of French honey production to a source of decline of French beekeeping industry. The French story expanded to the EU and the entire world along the spread of the use of neonicotinoids.

After 19 years of beekeepers and environmentalists mobilization, the European Commission decided in 2013, to ban the use of neonicotinoids on bee-attractive crops. The EU executive also asked the producers from these substances, Bayer and Syngenta, to provide so-called ‚confirmatory data‘ in order to better evaluate the toxicity of these substances.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed these confirmatory data and published its evaluations in November 2016[1]. The EFSA confirmed that these substances were highly toxic to bees, bumble bees and solitary bees. The Authority also confirmed there were still data gaps impeding a proper risk assessment, in particular for wild bees.

EFSA also warned that bees could be exposed to neonicotinoids outside crops as these insecticides spread rapidly in the environment, contaminating wild flowers as well. Further, independent science have shown that the toxicity of neonicotinoids goes far beyond honey bees: bumble bees, wild bees as well as the entire world of bugs. A dramatic decline in insects was recently demonstrated (75% dropdown of insects‘ biomass in Germany nature areas over 27 years[2]) which the authors attribute to intensive farming practices, including pesticide uses. A recent update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessement on the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems has evaluated 500 scientific evidence published since 2014 and confirm the high risk posed by these substances not only to insects but also to vertebrates and wild life in general[3].

Following the November 2016 EFSA opinions, the European Commission sent in February 2017 a draft regulation to the EU member states to ban these three neonicotinoids from EU agriculture with an exemption being given to their use in permanent greenhouses. EU member states will discuss and possibly vote on the draft regulation at the 12-13 Standing Committee on pesticides and member states might have the possibility to vote on the proposal.

More than 80 EU NGOs covering most of the European Union and comprising beekeepers, environmentalists and scientists are officially launching today the Save The Bees Coalition[4] to obtain the ban our environment needs. The Coalition will advocate that all EU member states vote in favour of the proposal from the European Commission to ban all uses of these neonicotinoids to protect our bees, including greenhouses as evidence shows that greenhouses are not closed systems and do not prevent leakage and environmental contamination. The Coalition will also demand that all other chemical pesticides are properly tested for their impact on bees so that all bee-harming pesticides will be banned in the EU. Therefore, member states need to approve without delay the 2013 EFSA Bee Guidance Document[5].

Members of the Save The Bees Coalition: Abella Lupa, Agrupació per a la protecció del medi ambient del Garraf, APIADS, Apicultura de huesca, Apiscam, Apiservices, Arieco, Asociación Bee Garden, Asociación de apicultores de la Región de Murcia, Asociación Española de Apicultores, Asociación Galega de apicultura, Asociación Medioambiental Jara, Asociación para a Defensa Ecolóxica de Galiza, Asociación RedMontañas, Asociación Reforesta, Associació Catalana d'Afectades i Afectats de Fibromiàlgia i d'altres Síndromes de Sensibilització Central, Avaaz, Baltic Environmental Forum Latvia, Bamepe, Bee Life - European Beekeeping Coordination, Bijenstichting, Buglife, BUND, Campact, COAG – Comunidada Valenciana, Confederación en Defensa de la Abeja en la Cornisa Cantábrica, Cooperativa El Brot, Deutsche Berufs und Erwerbs Imker Bund, Division of Apiculture- Hellenic Agriculture Organisation DEMETER, Earth Thrive, Eco Hvar, ECOCITY, ecocolmena, Ecological Council, Ecologistas en Acción, Estonian Green Party, European Professional Beekeepers Association, Federação Nacional dos Apicultores de Portugal, Federation of Greek Beekeepers' Associations, Foundation for the Environment and Agriculture, Friends of the Bees Foundation, Friends of the Earth Europe, Générations Futures, Gipuzkaoko Erlezain Elkartea, Glore Mill Sustainability Centre for Biodiversity and Energy, Greenpeace, Grup d'Estudi i Protecció dels Ecosistemes Catalans, Inter-Environnement Wallonie, INLUISAL SL, La Apnera, La Vinca, Lithuanian Fund for Nature, Melazahar, Melliferopolis, NABU, Natur&ëmwelt, Nature & Progrès Belgique, Pesticide Action Network Europe, Pesticide Action Network UK, Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk, proBiene, Proyecto Gran Simio, Quercus, Riet Vell, Romapis, Salvem la Platja Llarga, Slovenian Beekeepers` Association, Slow Food, SOS polinizadores, Spanish Society of Organic Farming, Statera NGO, SumOfUs, Territorios Vivos, Tot mel can ginesta, Umweltinstitut München, Unió de Llauradors I Ramaders, Union Nationale de l'Apiculture Française, Via Pontica Foundation, Vilde bier i Danmark, WECF France, WECF Germany, WWF España.

[1] https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4606  https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4607 
[2] Hallman et al. 2017 
[3] https://www.iucn.org/news/secretariat/201709/severe-threats-biodiversity-neonicotinoid-pesticides-revealed-latest-scientific-review 
[4] www.beecoalition.eu 
[5] https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/3295

Environment

Water management: Commission consults to update lists of pollutants affecting surface and ground water

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The Commission has launched an online public consultation to seek views on the upcoming review of the lists of pollutants occurring in surface and ground waters, as well as on corresponding regulatory standards. This initiative is particularly important for implementing the recently adopted Zero Pollution Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal, and wider efforts to secure the more efficient and safer use of water.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “All Europeans should benefit from clean water. Ensuring good quality of surface and groundwater in Europe is paramount for human health and for the environment. Pollution caused by pesticides, manmade chemicals or from residues of pharmaceuticals must be avoided as much as possible. We want to hear your views on how this can best be achieved.”

A recent evaluation (‘fitness check') in December 2019, found EU water legislation to be broadly fit for purpose. However, improvement is needed on aspects such as investment, implementing rules, integrating water objectives into other policies, administrative simplification and digitalisation. This revision aims to address some of the shortcomings in relation to chemical pollution and the legal obligation to regularly review the lists of pollutants, as well as to help accelerate implementation. The public consultation is open for feedback until 1 November 2021. More information is in this news release.

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Environment

EU invests €122 million in innovative projects to decarbonize the economy

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For the first time since the creation of the Innovation Fund, the European Union is investing €118 million into 32 small innovative projects located in 14 EU member states, Iceland and Norway. The grants will support projects aiming to bring low-carbon technologies to the market in energy intensive industries, hydrogen, energy storage and renewable energy. In addition to these grants, 15 projects located in 10 EU member states and Norway will benefit from project development assistance worth up to €4.4 million, with the aim of advancing their maturity.

Executive Vice President Timmermans said: “With today's investment, the EU is giving concrete support to clean tech projects all over Europe to scale up technological solutions that can help reach climate neutrality by 2050. The increase of the Innovation Fund proposed in the Fit for 55 Package will enable the EU to support even more projects in the future, speed them up, and bring them to the market as quickly as possible.”

A press release is available online.

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Belgium

Cars and pavements washed away as Belgian town hit by worst floods in decades

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The southern Belgian town of Dinant was hit by the heaviest floods in decades on Saturday (24 July) after a two-hour thunderstorm turned streets into torrential streams that washed away cars and pavements but did not kill anyone, writes Jan Strupczewski, Reuters.

Dinant was spared the deadly floods 10 days ago that killed 37 people in southeast Belgium and many more in Germany, but the violence of Saturday's storm surprised many.

"I have been living in Dinant for 57 years, and I've never seen anything like that," Richard Fournaux, the former mayor of the town on the Meuse river and birthplace of the 19th century inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, said on social media.

A woman works to recover her belongings following heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron
A woman walks in an area affected by heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Rainwater gushing down steep streets swept away dozens of cars, piling them in a heap at a crossing, and washed away cobbles stones, pavements and whole sections of tarmac as inhabitants watched in horror from windows.

There was no precise estimate of the damage, with town authorities predicting only that it would be "significant", according to Belgian RTL TV.

The storm wreaked similar havoc, also with no loss of life, in the small town of Anhee a few kilometres north of Dinant.

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