European Union exports pesticide banned for poisoning bees to Brazil

Official data released this Thursday (18) by Unearthed, Greenpeace’s news site, show that Germany, France and Belgium registered September in December of last year, the export to Brazil of more than 1.500 tons of neonicotinoid insecticides, banned in the European Union, because they are harmful to bees.

The products, depending on the concentration in insects, can impair locomotor activity, reducing flight speed, affecting the ability of bees to find food sources and to locate themselves, leading to the decline of hives over time.

Scientific studies show that neonicotinoids also affect native bees.

The reduction in the number of bees due to poisoning by chemicals used in agriculture impairs production and biodiversity, as they are responsible for pollinating various plant species.

In addition to the European Union, the agencies of the UN for health, WHO, and for food and agriculture, FAO, state that there is a growing consensus that it is necessary to “severely restrict” the use of neonicotinoids, as they represent “high risk to the environment”.

*)According to the FAO, the number of pollinating insects is declining in various regions of the world, in part because of the use of chemicals in agriculture.

In total, according to the data, eight members of the European bloc and the United Kingdom have issued plans to export 3.800 tons of the chemicals to 27 countries in America Latin America, Africa and Asia.

With one of the strictest legislations in relation to pesticides, the European Union committed last year to ban the export of chemicals banned in the bloc, by launching its Strategy of Chemical Products.

According to Vivian Loonela, spokesperson of the Commission, the forecast is that a legal proposal will be presented in 2022 or 2023.

To Brazil, were sold products with active principles (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam) recognized as toxic to bees by an analysis carried out by Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Resources), published in March this year.

products had been reassessed by the environmental agency since 2012, after indications that they could be harmful to ecosystems. The opinion was sent to the Ministry of Agriculture, which said it was “finalizing its internal technical analysis”. A ministerial decision must be made in the next 27 days.

According to the last quarter data of 2020, from Belgium alone, the shipment of 2.2 million liters of the insecticide Engeo Pleno S (based on thiamethoxan) was planned, which, according to Greenpeace, would be “sufficient to spray the entire Belgian territory several times.”

The country produced the largest volume of these chemicals in the period analyzed. To Unearthed, the Minister of Climate and Environment, Zakia Khattabi, said that the Belgian government is studying legal ways to end the export of banned chemical products.

In France, the second largest exporter of these neonicotinoids , a national law banning the sale of banned pesticides enters into force early next year.

“It is outrageous that the EU continues to produce and export chemicals that we consider too dangerous for use in the bloc “, said the German MEP from the Greens Anna Cavazzini, vice president of the delegation for relations with Brazil.

Cavazzini says that the European Union adopts a “double standard, to the detriment of people and biodiversity in countries like Brazil”: “What is dangerous for European citizens and fauna is very dangerous for the rest of the world”.

On this “double standard”, the European bloc is based in the Rotterdam Convention to export chemicals banned by the EU: “The principle of the convention is that it is for countries to importers decide whether they want to import certain products, including pesticides,” says Loonela.

But the Commission does not consider foreign rules in other environmental measures, as in the proposal to ban imports of soy, meat and other commodities, released this Wednesday (18).

The text, which will still be voted on by the European Parliament and the Council (which brings together the 18 leaders of the EU members), prohibits European companies from importing products linked to deforestation, even if they comply with environmental laws that specify legal or illegal logging (such as this is the case of Brazil).

In October, French MEPs who oppose the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur criticized the use in Brazil of pesticides prohibited by the bloc — some of them produced in the bloc and exported by its member countries, according to data obtained by Unearthed through the freedom of information rules.

The Commission recognizes a lack of coherence in both parameters and says that he hopes that this will be resolved with the regulation of the strategy for chemical products, but he points out:

“The ban on EU exports may, however, not automatically take third countries to stop using such pesticides if they can import them from elsewhere. Convincing them not to use them is equally important and is part of the bloc’s green diplomacy,” says Loonela.

​In addition to Brazil, which leads the imported volume, the main export destinations, in weight of active ingredient, were Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Iran, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Ghana and Mali. countries contained 500 tons of active ingredients whose outdoor use was banned by the EU in 2018.

A study released that year by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that “the majority of uses of neonicotinoid pesticides posed a risk to wild and domesticated bees, to drones and solitary species”.

According to specialist in these insects Dave Goulson, professor of biology at the University of Sussex, “there seems to be no use of neonicotinoids in outdoor situations considered to be of low risk for all groups of ab

Commenting on the report, he stated that the damage is not only in the spraying, but by the contamination of subsequent crops and wild flowers on the edges of the field (in both cases, considered high risk).

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