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Bee upset

Posted 30/04/2013 by sevans

So even though the member governments of the EU cannot agree on the way forward regarding neonicotinoids, the European Commission will have its way as we report in the next issue of C&I, which is currently being printed. 

In its May 2013 edition, C&I looks at the debates and scientific disagreements that have raged across the EU over the possible link between the use of these pesticides and the observed decline in bee populations not just in Europe but also in North America and elsewhere.

The UK government, for example, and the agrochemical industry have said that there is no connection, according to the scientific evidence, but the industry has nevertheless put forward suggested actions that it believes should reduce the possible contact between bees and the so-called neonics. Other European nations, like France, had already taken unilateral action to ban the substances, but now the European Commission, which had proposed such a ban, will step in to impose a two-year moratorium on the use of neonics after a second failure to reach a qualified majority decision by EU members.

The industry will continue to argue that even a temporary ban is unnecessary but will have to look into their own existing and future products to offer alternatives. After all, with the accelerating demand for food around the world, any drop in food production presents an even greater challenge in terms of feeding the burgeoning global population.

And as for the environmentalists? They will chalk this up as another victory and swiftly move on to their next target. And unlike the agrochemical sector and farmers, they will not have to deal with the expected fall-out, although their supporters will have to live with the possible consequences that have been suggested, including food shortages and rising prices.

But what will be the next target for these activists? Animal testing has again hit the headlines but the chemical industry is something of the good cop in this case. The Board of Appeal (BoA) of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has decided to allow an appeal by Honeywell against the ECHA’s decision that it should carry out a 90-day inhalation experiment on rabbits for a refrigerant for its car air conditioning system.

This is the first such decision by the BoA on REACH testing requirements, and it has been welcomed by the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, led by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). The decision was based on the BoA’s claim that the ECHA had ‘failed to ensure animal testing was a last resort’.

So we have the spectacle of an unusual agreement between the chemical industry and animal rights activists, although one can only speculate on the different reasons behind this common cause. And what is more, it is all centred on the requirements of the REACH legislation, promoted by environmentalists and resisted vehemently by the chemical industry. We certainly live in strange times.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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