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Environmental NGOs Continue Backing Ban on Neonicotinoids During Hearing at EUCJ

On June 3rd, 2020, a hearing is taking place at the European Union Court of Justice regarding the European Commission's 2013 partial ban on three neonicotinoid insecticides. Shortly after the Commission decided to ban these three substances due to evidence on the high risks they pose to bees, pesticide producers Bayer (imidacloprid, clothianidin), Syngenta (thiamethoxam) and BASF (fipronil) brought their case to court. In 2019, the court ruled against the industry’s claims and decided that the ban remains legally binding [1]. Shortly after the ruling, however, Bayer appealed the decision. Today, the appealing process continues with a hearing in court, and the European Commission's ban still counts with the support of environmental NGOs. Besides, developments on risk assessment and further advances on the protection of pollinators further confirm the ban and the court's ruling.

In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) took a new step to confirm the risks that three neonicotinoid substances pose to bees. EFSA found that these substances (clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid) were too problematic for bee health. They have unacceptable lethal and sublethal effects that affected the overall health of the colony. Following these findings, the European Commission partially banned the three neonicotinoids. In the following years, more evidence would surge to confirm this ban.

EFSA would later continue issuing and publishing opinions that would confirm the initial findings that led to the ban. While the case advanced in court, science and regulations on the matter continued to advance. The most significant development was the fuller ban on neonicotinoids in 2018. Decisionmakers that supported the ban, as well as environmental organisations, welcomed the new ban as a breakthrough for bee protection. Substances could no longer receive authorisation for any open-air uses. Even though other difficulties arose, as the use and abuse of emergency authorisations persisted [2], the ban did not face legal challenges.

In 2019, a year after the total ban, the court's ruling dismissing Bayer and Syngenta's claims was clear. Even more, Bayer's appeal was untimely and steered away from the findings of European scientific bodies, that over and over confirmed the risks that these substances have on bees [3]. 

Today, Beelife, Buglife, Greenpeace and Pesticide Action Network Europe among other organisations support the European Commission and are intervening to ask the court to dismiss the appeal. This support comes from the recognition of scientific evidence and the confidence that the 2013 partial ban was lawful. Particularly following Regulation No 1107/2009, better known as the Pesticides Regulation, the Commission has the right and duty to ensure the protection of honeybees, while pesticide producers need to ensure that their products do not impact human and animal health and have unacceptable effects on the environment, including all pollinators and non-target species. Through the application of the precautionary principle stated in Article 21, the Commission followed regulation and remained within its scope of action. 

Furthermore, the EU and member states increasingly recognise the value of bees and pollinators in general, as well as the need to protect them. The EU Pollinators Initiative[3] even contains precise actions required to protect and support pollinators. This initiative is one of the examples of the trends towards increasing protection. It also portrays the active role of European institutions in safeguarding the environment and the pollinators on which it depends.

As the process in court continues, arguments for the dismissal of the appeal continue to amount. Today's hearing could mark another step towards ensuring that legitimate efforts to implement EU legislation, protect bees and the environment are highly valued. It is also the opportunity to send a clear message that economic interests do not override environmental protection in Europe.

[1] CVRIA. 2018. The General Court confirms the validity of the restrictions introduced at EU level in 2013 against the insecticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid because of the risks those substances pose to bees. Recovered from:

[2] PANeurope, ClientEarth, BeeLife, Romapis. 2017. Bee emergency Call How some Member States are threatening bees by allowing the use of prohibited pesticides and how the Commission does nothing to stop them. Recovered from: 

[3]EFSA. 2016. Evaluation of the data on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam for the updated risk assessment to bees for seed treatments and granules in the EU. Recovered from:

[4] European Commission. EU Pollinators Initiative.


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