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By Dave Keating, European Voice

Syngenta, the Swiss agrochemical company, is taking the European Commission to court over its decision to ban the use of the seed-treatment pesticide thiamethoxam over concerns that it is harming bee populations. German chemicals company has filed a similar challenge.

The complaint, announced seperately by the companies today (27 August), says that the Commission took its decision based on an “inaccurate and incomplete assessment” by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and without the full support of European Union member states. The complaint was filed with the European Court of Justice on 14 August.

Member states were unable to reach a clear majority for or against the ban proposal, leaving the Commission the option of taking a decision unilaterally. The Commission announced a two-year ban on thiamethoxam and two other chemicals belonging to the neonicotinoid family in May. An earlier EFSA assessment found they posed “high acute risks” to honeybees, which are vital to the food chain because of the pollination they provide.

“We would prefer not to take legal action but have no other choice given our firm belief that the Commission wrongly linked thiamethoxam to the decline in bee health,” said John Atkin, chief operating officer at Syngenta.

“Since the EU suspension of thiamethoxam was announced, farmers and farmer organisations have expressed great concern that an extremely effective, low dose product will not be available to them and will have to be replaced by much less sustainable alternatives,” he added.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace criticised the court action. “Instead of taking the Commission to court, it should act responsibly and stop marketing its bee-killing pesticides,” said Mark Breddy, a spokesman for the group. “The environmental risks and the threat to agricultural production posed by these pesticides far outweigh any benefits.”

The ECJ court proceedings could take up to two years. Unless the ECJ issues an injunction, the ban will still take effect on 1 December. Partial bans of neonicotinoids are already in place in Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia.

This article was written by Dave Keating and published at European Voice.

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