* Fipronil use restricted due to link with falling bee
* Decision follows earlier EU ban on widely used pesticides
* Scientists divided over pesticides' role in bee deaths
(Recasts lead, adds BASF reaction, details, background)
By Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, July 16 The European Union added a
pesticide made by German chemical firm BASF to its
blacklist of substances suspected of playing a role in declining
Member governments banned the use of agricultural
insecticide fipronil to treat maize and sunflower seeds, the
European Commission said.
The restrictions take effect from Dec. 31 but seeds which
have already been treated can be sown until the end of February
The ban follows similar EU curbs imposed in April on three
of the world's most widely used pesticides, known as
neonicotinoids, and reflects growing concern in Europe over a
recent plunge in the population of honeybees critical to crop
pollination and production.
A scientific assessment from the EU's food safety watchdog
EFSA said in May that fipronil posed an "acute risk to honeybees
when used as a seed treatment for maize".
Fipronil, mainly sold under the Regent brand name in Europe,
may still be used on seeds sown in greenhouses, or leeks,
shallots, onions and other vegetables that are harvested before
they flower, posing a low risk to foraging bees.
BASF said in a statement it disagreed with the decision and
remained convinced the decline in bee numbers was due to other
"We will support the European Commission in the development
of extensive measures that can benefit bees while securing food
production in Europe. We do not believe that the planned
restriction of fipronil uses will accomplish that," said Juergen
Oldeweme of BASF's Crop Protection division.
In a vote on Tuesday in the EU's standing committee on the
food chain and animal health (SCFCAH), the ban was backed by 23
member states, with three abstentions. Spain and Romania - where
fipronil is used commercially - opposed the measures.
Scientists are divided on the part played by pesticides such
as neonicotinoids in the sharp decline in bee numbers in Europe
in recent years - a phenomenon known as "colony collapse
The European Commission says pesticides are one of several
factors which may be responsible, along with parasites, diseases
and shrinking habitats.
"Today's agreement with member states ... marks another
significant step in realising the Commission's overall strategy
to tackling Europe's bee decline," EU health chief Tonio Borg
said in a statement.
Unlike the banned neonicotinoids, fipronil is not widely
used in Europe, with only three other EU countries currently
using it for maize production besides Spain and Romania, the
(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Frankfurt; editing
by Claire Davenport and David Cowell)