As a Trainee with the European Commission, I have the luxury of coming into close contact with several high ranking EU officials, include European Commissioners. During a recent conference, we had the pleasure of experiencing an interesting talk by the European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, who discussed various topics including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). During the Q&A, I asked Ms Malmström about the future of neonicotinoid chemicals in the EU.
I had written about these chemicals in a post back in 2013, a couple of days before the European Commission partially banned the use of these chemicals to safeguard bee populations. As with many Commission issued bans, their implementation is rarely ever linear, as a 2014 article hinted at a lack of enforcement of the ban at a national level.
Irrespective of these internal European issues surrounding the use of neonictonoids, the chemicals are effectively partially banned. However, concerns have been raised at the possibility of their reintroduction following continued negotiations on TTIP with the US.
Back in April 2014, then German MEP Hiltrud Beyner (part of the European Greens Party) asked a written question to the European Commission concerning an interview in which the COO of Syngenta John Atlkin, said that he wanted to annul the partial ban on neonicotinoids through the TTIP.
In its response, the Commission stated that “These negotiations are not about compromising the health of our consumers for commercial gains. We will not negotiate changes of the basic rules that we do not want on either side”.
Despite this, it was recently reported that US trade officials pushed the EU to drop pesticide laws that it was planning to regulate regarding the use of endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility, in order to facilitate TTIP free trade deal. This move renewed concerns regarding the possibility of neonicotonoids being reintroduced in the EU, amid possible pressures from US pesticide companies.
In response to this, I asked Commissioner Malmström if we should expect such a reintroduction. Her response was a resounding NO – if neonicotonoids have already been partially banned in the EU, they will stay partially banned irrespective of the agreements to be negotiated in TTIP.
This statement will hopefully dispel any future concerns that European environmental groups may have, guaranteeing a future for European bee populations. Additionally, it is hoped that national governments in each EU member state will move ahead with the proper regulation and enforcement on the use of these chemicals in the near future.