Let’s pop some champagne this weekend: The European Union decided Friday to ban all outdoor use of neonicotinoids, insecticides that have been linked to wild bee population declines and stunted colony growth.
Neonicotinoids are the most widely used group of insecticides in the world, and the European Union’s been studying their impacts on bees since 2012. In 2013, it passed a two-year moratorium on three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam) after findings pointed to potential risks to honeybees.
An analysis from the European Food Safety Authority earlier this year heightened concerns, finding that pesticides contaminate soil, nectar, and pollen too. Now, this moratorium has become permanent. It will go into effect by the end of 2018.
“All outdoor uses will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where exposure of bees is not expected,” the European Commission said in a statement, per Reuters.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Look, I get bees can be annoying, especially when they sting. One afternoon, I walked into my kitchen to find a drove of bees building a hive in the wall next to the window. They were getting into my Brooklyn apartment, and, well, it was terrifying. So believe me: I get it.
We need bees, though. They’re not just wonderful creators of honey. They pollinate the shit out of fruit, nuts, and even spice crops like mustard. They die, and our food supply is hit—hard. Pollinators, including bees, birds, and bats, help drive one-third of the food production worldwide. The insecticides bees are ingesting are already making their way into the world’s honey supply. The levels are low enough to be fine for humans, but this shows how widespread the contamination is.
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So environmentalists are praising this recent development. Farmers and developers of these pesticides, on the other hand, aren’t too happy. They err more on the side of skepticism.
“European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” said Graeme Taylor, public affairs director of the European Crop Protection Association, to The Guardian. “Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but in time decision makers will see the clear impact of removing a vital tool for farmers.”
Regardless of what opponents have to say, the ban is a go. Sure, folks on the other side might respond with lawsuits (like they did in 2013), but a few facts remain clear: We need honeybees, and they are dying off.
Anything that helps them hang on seems like a win.