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The EU Court of Justice finishes the abuse of emergency authorisations of bee-killing insecticides

BRUSSELS, 27 January 2023 - Last week, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) issued a preliminary ruling on questions raised by the Belgian Council of State regarding emergency authorisations of pesticides [1]. The Court stated that providing for derogations for the seed treatment with a banned pesticide and the planting of these seeds is not in line with European law. This ruling is good news for Europe’s nature, farmers’ and citizens’ health and food security, as it ends almost half of the derogations granted by Member States to banned pesticides.

Pesticide products containing some neonicotinoid insecticides, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, were first restricted to some uses in 2013 (only to non-bee-attractive crops) and then banned for open uses in 2018. However, EU countries continued allowing their use via repeated emergency authorisations provided year after year. In 2019, Nature & Progrès Belgium, a Belgian individual beekeeper and PAN Europe filed an application for annulment of an emergency authorisation granted to the sugar lobby before the Belgian Council of State. Such authorisation allowed the use of highly bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides on sugar beet.

Similar complaints were not just filed in Belgium. French and Romanian colleagues complained at the national level against these abuses. However, the Belgian complaint has been the only one reaching a CJEU ruling. As the Secretary General of Nature & Progrès Belgium reckoned, the CJEU ruling has an EU-wide effect in protecting bees and insects, farmers and EU citizens, for emergency authorisations with neonicotinoid-treated seeds are now definitively banned. It will help improve the field situation of countries abusing the emergency authorisation regulatory tool, such as Romania. Constantin Dobrescu, vice chair of ROMAPIS and BeeLife’s treasurer, said: “After having fought legally against our Ministry for years for the continuous authorisation of banned neonicotinoid pesticide products on bee-attractive crops, we thank our Belgian colleagues for having achieved what we couldn’t.

The problem of abusing the emergency authorisation tool by EU Member states, with the Commission’s acceptance, has been ongoing for a long time [2]. Indeed, the Commission does not seem to push Member States to look for alternatives (even non-chemical ones) to the banned pesticides, even though they exist. A recent report shows that the problem of emergency authorisation of banned pesticides is not isolated: 236 such derogations have been granted in the last 4 years, neonicotinoid-insecticides accounting for almost half of these derogations (47.5%)[3]. According to the CJEU, Member States do not assess the need for these derogations and their compliance with EU law.

The ruling also provides a motivation for the real implementation of Integrated Pest Management, for it imposes Member States to promote pest management based first on non-chemical methods, and then inviting professional pesticide users to favour practices and products having the lowest risk for human and environmental health.

Francesco Panella, President of BeeLife, said: “We are very happy with the ruling of the CJEU, as it finally provides European bees, pollinators and environment the protection foreseen in the legislation, that national administrations are far from respecting. Introducing banned pesticides through the back door goes against the precautionary principle, is illegal and inmoral.”


[2] Bee emergency call -


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Contact: Noa SIMON DELSO, BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination:,

+32 (0) 486973920;

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