European Union governments failed to reach a decision on whether to
ban three widely-used pesticides linked to the decline of honeybees, the
European Commission said.
"No qualified majority was reached, either in favour, or against the text,"
the Commission said in a statement, adding it would now consider the next
Sources close to the discussions said 13 EU governments voted in favour of a
ban and nine voted against, with five countries including Britain and Germany
Risk to honeybee health
The Commission proposed the ban in January, after the EU's food safety
watchdog EFSA said a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids pose an acute
risk to honeybee health.
The findings present a dilemma to regulators, as bees and other insects play
a crucial role in pollinating most crops grown in Europe, but neonicotinoids are
used on more than 8 million hectares (20 million acres) of EU cropland annually
to boost yields of rapeseed, wheat and other staples.
The proposal would prohibit the use of neonicotinoids on all crops other than
winter cereals and plants not attractive to bees, such as sugar beet. It would
apply from July 1, 2013, ensuring that spring maize sowing in Europe this year
is not affected.
Under EU rules, member states now have two months to reach a compromise or
the European Commission will be free to unilaterally adopt the proposal.
The main producers of neonicotinoids - Switzerland's Syngeta and Germany's
Bayer - have described EFSA's assessment as flawed, and say habitat decline and
parasites such as the Varroa mite are the chief cause of honeybee decline.
They have funded research showing that a blanket ban on the pesticides could
reduce EU net wheat exports by 16% and lead to a 57% increase in the bloc's
But campaign group Avaaz, which has collected more than 2.5 million
signatures for a petition calling on the European Union to ban the products,
accused governments of ignoring public opinion.
"Today, Germany and Britain have caved in to the industry lobby and refused
to ban bee-killing pesticides," Avaaz campaigner Iain Keith said in a