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Europe Plans to Ban Pesticides Killing their Buzz

Update Date: Apr 01, 2013 04:06 PM EDT

The use of pesticides proves to be the cause of a major decline in Europe's bee population, posing a potential ban on one pesticide in particular. In hopes to prevent a moratorium, manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer announced a plan to conduct more research and support bee health. Neonicotinoids and coumaphos are the pesticides affecting the buzz.

Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides which are chemically related to nicotine and are one of the most commonly used insecticides worldwide.  Meanwhile, coumaphos is an insecticide used to kill the Varroa mites, a parasite that attacks weak honeybee colonies. When used together, the pesticides proved to have an adverse effect on bees.

Researchers directly applied the pesticides to the bees' brains and learned that the chemicals created a loss of brain activity, making the bees disoriented.  When combined together, the pesticides created an exaggerated effect, according the study.

In January 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declared that neonicotinoids posed an unacceptably high risk to bees, gaining support from the European Commision for a potential moratorium.

"The Commission will wait to see the proposals from the companies, but as things stand we believe the opinion from the EFSA provides sufficient evidence to proceed with the proposed measures," Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent told Reuters.

Syngenta and Bayer proposed that the decline in bee population could be attributed to a lack of bee habitats and plan to plant more flowering margins in surrounding fields. A study funded by the two estimated a ban on neonicotinoids would cost the EU approximately 4.5 billion euros a year. However, it did not take into account the positive effects of an increase in bee efficiency.

Bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of crops worldwide. Losing them would not only affect our produce but could potentially pose a threat to our dairy and meatindustries, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

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