* Commission seeks pesticide restrictions
* Working towards March regulation
* Implementation by 1 July 2013
* Makes exception for 2013 maize crops
(Adds background, Syngenta comments)
By Claire Davenport
BRUSSELS, Jan 31 The European Commission said on
Thursday it wanted EU member states restrict the use of
pesticides linked to the decline of bees.
The Commission said it was asking EU countries to suspend
the use of neonicotinoid insecticides - among the most
commonly-used crop pesticides - on sunflower, rapeseed, maize
"We are requesting member states suspend for two years the
use of this pesticide on seeds, granulates and sprays for crops
which attract bees," Commission health spokesman Frederic
Vincent told a briefing.
"We hope the regulation can be adopted before March," he
said, adding that the Commission expected it to be implemented
at the latest by July 1, 2013. The Commission had presented its
proposal to member states and was waiting for their response.
The spokesman said there would be an exception for maize
seed in 2013, where the Commission would authorise neonicotinoid
use unless member states wanted to implement restrictions.
A report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
earlier this month said three widely-used neonicotinoid
pesticides, made by Switzerland's Syngenta and
Germany's Bayer, posed an acute risk to honeybees.
Fears over the effects on bees led France to ban Syngenta's
Cruiser OSR for rapeseed in June last year..
Syngenta said at the time it would appeal against that
A sharp fall in bee populations around the world in recent
years, partly due to a phenomenon known as colony collapse
disorder, has prompted criticism of pesticide use.
But the EFSA report found no link between use of the
pesticides and colony collapse, which has seen bee populations
fall rapidly across Europe and North America.
Syngenta defended its products in full-page advertisements
published in two major French newspapers on Thursday, saying
they were fully respectful of the environment and that none of
the allegations had been proven when used in open fields.
"As of today no clear correlation has been established
between the use of these products and the decline in colonies,"
Syngenta's chairman Martin Taylor wrote in an open letter to the
French farm minister.
In a separate statement on Thursday, Syngenta said the
Commission's call for restrictions would spell "a significant
loss to farmers and the economy," adding that bee populations
were primarily under threat from diseases and poor nutrition.
France is the largest crop producer in the European Union.
Other EU states - Germany, Slovenia and the Netherlands - have
introduced restrictions on pesticides and calls have got louder
for EU-wide action.
(Additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris and
Martin de Sa'Pinto in Zurich; editing by Rex Merrifield)