20 May 2009

Italy keeps ban on neonicotinoid seed coating to save bees

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The Italian Agriculture Ministry suspended the use of pesticides containing clothianidin, thiametoxam and imidacloprid for the coating of any plant seeds (May '09).

Tens of thousands of them don’t even manage to get back to their apiary. Disoriented, they lose the way home and die. Others just drop dead after sucking the tiniest amount of dew exuded by maize leaves if the plants have been absorbing neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that Italy has temporarily banned as seed coating in September last year for their “possible connection to the colony collapse of bees”.

Following the example of France (who has recently allowed a new neonicotinoid onto the market, though), Germany and Slovenia, the Italian Agriculture Ministry suspended the use of pesticides containing clothianidin, thiametoxam and imidacloprid for the coating of any plant seeds “as a precautionary measure”. Fipronil has also been added to the list for its “analogous toxic effects on bees and dispersion into the environment at the time of sowing”.

The new law downsizes a big business and has already been challenged by the agrochemical industry but Italy held on to the ban, although the suspension will now expire after a year. It might possibly be renewed if an improvement in bee survival is observed after this spring’s maize sowing.

However, controversial neonicotinoids, which are released into the maize lymph by the seed coating and work as a permanent insecticide inside the plant, will continue being sprayed on fruit trees after blossoming and on many other crops, and are still part of compulsory treatments against a disease of the vineyards commonly spread by an insect. Opinions about their environment safety vary widely, with many beekeepers taking the most radical stand and wanting them banned for good.

(26 May 2009)

 

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