In 2020, we share how the European Union's highest court upheld the French ban on pesticides to protect bees. Now the court is back with another pro-pollinator ruling, upholding a partial EU ban on three insecticides linked to harmful bees.
The lawsuit, filed by Bayer, sought to overturn pesticide restrictions, claiming that pesticides should still be allowed in agricultural environments with appropriate restrictions.
The ban applies to three active substances, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, all developed by different agricultural chemical companies. The substances were initially restricted in 2013 due to evidence that they were contributing to the decline of bee colonies.
Although the EU still occasionally grants permission for use in emergency situations such as mass crop loss, this continued restriction is good news for European honeybee populations.
The European Commission has proposed targets to reduce pesticide use by 50 percent in the EU by 2030 to further protect bee species.
A Bayer spokesman said he was disappointed by the verdict and defended the safety of the products, which continue to be used in other regions with the application of appropriate risk mitigation measures.
"The verdict appears to allow the (European) Commission almost carte blanche to review existing approvals under the slightest evidence, which need not even be new scientific data," the spokesperson said.
In 2013, the Commission restricted the use of neonicotinoids, meaning they could not be used in maize, rapeseed and some spring cereals. They can even be used for other crops such as sugar beet.
The Commission has revised the approvals due to the loss of bee colonies due to the misuse of pesticides.
Bayer said there is not enough new scientific knowledge to justify the restrictions. The EU's highest court dismissed the appeal on Thursday and ordered Bayer to bear its own expenses, plus those of other parties.
“The Court of Justice reaffirmed that the protection of nature and people's health takes precedence over the narrow economic interests of powerful multinationals,” said Greenpeace legal strategist Andrea Carta.
Syngenta, owned by Bayer and ChemChina, warned that banning insecticides would mean farmers would revert to older chemicals and spray more.
Despite the ban, 206 emergency permits were granted to use the substances in the EU between 2013 and 2019. EU auditors said last year that pesticide use, while legal, was held responsible for the bee's losses.
To protect bees, the Commission has proposed targets to reduce the EU's use of chemical pesticides by 50% and to reduce fertilizer use by 20% by 2030.