EUROPE – The European Commission plans to propose restrictions on use of neonicotinoid pesticides while in the amidst of a continuing tug of war between environmental groups and pesticide producers.

Environmental NGOs have attacked agrochemicals and seeds producer, Syngenta, which is one of the main producers of thiamethoxam, a pesticide used to coat seeds before germination, saying the agricultural model it advocates is “unsustainable” and against the EU legislation.

Neonicotinoids or neonics are a controversial group of pesticides; most commonly used as insecticides for many foods and feed crops. They have however detrimental effects on bees and pollinators in general.

Anca Paduraru, European Commission Spokesman on health and food safety issues said the protection of bees was important for the executive as it affects biodiversity and environment.

“This is why the College discussed the matter on 29 March and concluded that it will continue its action to protect the bees,” she said, adding that new restrictions were in the pipeline.

“The Commission intends to table a proposal which further restricts the use of neonics,” Paduraru told EURACTIV.

The EU executive has therefore opted for the reviewing – on the basis of evaluations by the European Food Safety Agency – of the restrictions on use of three neonicotinoids (Imidacloprid, Clothianidin and Thiametoxam).

These restrictions have been in place since 2013 as the substances used were recognised as toxic to bees and other pollinators.

It is also focused on collection of new data as an open call for the review of the 2013 restrictions for the three neonicotinoids. This deadline has however been pushed to November due to the amount of data being assessed and complexity of the requests made.

According to Guardian Post, this year the EU executive was mulling for a total ban. However, in responses to the interviews by EURACTIV, the Commission is more than willing to propose stricter rules on neonic’s usage other than a total ban.

Syngenta chief executive Erik Frywald emphasised the need for a debate on what ‘sustainable agriculture’ is in terms of pesticides’ use.

“We have a lot of discussions about specific products. I think it’s really important to step back and have a real discussion with the government, and with NGOs and academics about what is sustainable agriculture,” Fyrwald noted, adding that politicised and unscientific discussions should be avoided.

“When you look at the data, we believe pesticides have very little impact on bees, on the health of bee colonies,” he emphasised, adding that bees are affected by other factors, such as varroa mites, diseases and cold weather.

“It’s important to understand that we produce a lot of seeds, and our seeds require bees to pollinate the crops, so we have high value for bees. Without bees our business would not exist,” Fyrwald concluded.