Neonicotinoid pesticides could be banned from use in the European Union for two years if the European Commission has its way. The European Commission, which is the EU’s executive arm, proposed the two-year ban for three neonicotinoid pesticides on sunflowers, rapeseed, corn and cotton, according to Frederic Vincent.

“This is for the crops that most attract bees,” Vincent told Bloomberg.com. “This doesn’t concern crops that don’t attract bees, and also not crops that are planted in autumn.”

It is believed that neonicotinoids pose a “high acute risk” to bees because the pesticide works on the central nervous system of insects. Bees ingest the pesticide through the nectar and pollen of treated crops.

“The next step will be the preparation by the European Commission of regulation,” Vincent said. “We hope that this regulation could be accepted by the end of winter, maybe before March, which would mean that the ban in question would become effective as of July 1.”

Syngenta and Bayer CropScience, manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides, were disappointed with the proposed ban. Both companies had sponsored a study that was released in January, which explained the significant cost farmers would bear without the use of these pesticide tools.

In a statement, Bayer expressed its disappointment.

“Bayer CropScience is disappointed with the European Commission’s draconian proposal to suspend all uses of neonicotinoids products in crops attractive to bees for two years. The company believes that the Commission’s overly conservative interpretation of the precautionary principle is a missed opportunity to achieve a fair and proportional solution.

“Bayer CropScience shares the concerns surrounding bee health and has been investing heavily in research to minimize the impact of crop protection products on bees and in extensive stewardship measures supporting the responsible and proper use of its products. The company continues to believe in the responsible use of neonicotinoid-containing products which have been used for many years and are vital to European farmers.

“Bayer CropScience asks the Member States to adhere to the principles of proportionality when addressing the Commission’s proposal and refer back to solid science before taking any measures. Any disproportionate action would jeopardize the competitiveness of European agriculture und finally lead to higher costs for food, feed, fiber and renewable raw materials and have an enormous economic impact throughout the whole food chain.”

Syngenta responded with its own statement.

“We believe that EFSA found itself under political pressure to produce a hurried and inadequate risk assessment, which even they acknowledge contains a high level of uncertainty.  Their report, compiled in under six months, has not taken account of the comprehensive scientific studies that preceded the launch of neonicotinoids, and many years of extensive monitoring in the field which proves the safety of this vital technology.

“A recent study showed that without neonicotinoid seed treatment, crop yields would fall by up to 40% and cost the EU economy around €17bn over 5 years. This would threaten 50,000 jobs and reduce the income of nearly 1m people. In addition, the loss of crop productivity here would be made up by farming an additional 3m hectares of land outside of Europe at a cost of 600m tons of CO2 emissions.

“Seed treated with thiamethoxam has been used across millions of hectares of European crops for over ten years. When used properly the technology does not damage bee populations and this is why many EU countries have continued to support its use.”