Brussels has announced restrictions on the seed treatment fipronil, saying it poses an acute risk to Europe’s honey bee populations.

A ban on the use of fipronil as a seed treatment for maize and sunflowers will apply from 31 December, although seeds already treated can be sown until the end of February 2014.

The European Commission made the announcement on Tuesday (16 July).

It follows a decision earlier this year to ban the use of neonicotinoid seed treatements on oilseed rape.

Fipronil manufacturer, BASF, expressed its disagreement with the commission’s decision, saying it would limit growers’ access to valuable and approved technologies.

The company said it remained convinced that the decline in bee populations was caused by multiple and complex factors and that the restriction of fipronil would not contribute to protecting bees.

The decision was unjustified, said Jürgen Oldeweme, BASF Crop Protection’s senior vice-president for global product safety and regulatory affairs.

“The decision regarding fipronil was derived from an assessment that focused heavily on new technical areas for which no established regulatory evaluation criteria are yet available.

“Moreover, sound data from field studies that underpin the safe use of our product for bees were not considered sufficiently.”

“We are certain that Europe can achieve both the protection of pollinators and the support of European agriculture – but for that all stakeholders must engage in a comprehensive action plan to address the real root causes of the decline in bee health.”

Mr Oldeweme said BASF had gained a broad understanding in recent years of the factors that impact bee health by working together with scientists, farmers and beekeepers.

Using this knowledge, the company had delivered practical, tested solutions to improve bee health, such as recommending the introduction of flowering strips to support proper bee nutrition within farmland.

It had also offered European beekeepers special “mite away quick strips” to control the Varroa destructor mite in beehives, a serious mite that impairs bee health.

These initiatives illustrated how bees and agriculture can co-exist.

Mr Oldeweme said: “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.”

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