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Syngenta and Bayer disappointed with EU court ruling on neonicotinoids

Europe   The EU’s precautionary principle

An EU court upheld a partial ban on three insecticides known as neonicotinoids, saying that the European Commission had been right in 2013 to restrict their use to protect bees.

The court said the EU’s “precautionary principle” meant that the EU could take measures if there was scientific uncertainty about risks to human health or the environment and did not have to wait until it was clear harm had been caused.

They also argued that the European Food and Safety Agency had based its finding of possible risk was based on excessively high doses in laboratory tests and demanded field studies be carried out on an unrealistically large area.

Bayer Crop Science and Syngenta both argued that banning neonicotinoids would mean farmers using older chemicals and spraying more.

In a statement Syngenta said: "Today's European General Court ruling is disappointing and unfortunate. We stand by our past decision to challenge the European Commission's decision-making process concerning our thiamethoxam technology, as it relied on a hypothetical risk to implement partial restrictions on neonicotinoid chemistries, outside legally approved regulation.

"Predictable regulatory frameworks and their consistent application by regulators enable companies like Syngenta to innovate and thus support European farmers and ultimately European consumers with locally produced, safe and affordable food.

"The handling of this specific case reflects our more general concern at the approach the European Commission is taking to regulating technology in agriculture. The evolution of modern farming technology and responsible, science-based environmental management is imperative if we are to sustainably produce affordable, safe and local food to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 and take care of our planet.

"Predictable, transparent and science-based regulation must lie at the center of meeting this challenge. Scientific and regulatory excellence in Europe has increasingly become politicized. This has negatively affected all interested parties and above all, has damaged consumer trust.

"Looking forward, today's ruling must be seen as an opportunity to build stronger foundations for transparent dialogue and scientific understanding with European regulators and all other stakeholders. We want to send a clear message that scientific innovation is in our view the only effective way to address the joint challenges of achieving food security and protecting the environment.

"We remain committed to innovating, within a reliable regulatory framework, in order to help EU agriculture become more sustainable while ensuring the financial security of EU farmers".

Bayer said: "They are disappointed with the verdict of the General Court of the European Union’s on Case T-429/13 Bayer CropScience v European Commission. The Court has ruled that the European Commission’s decision from 2013, which restricted the use of certain neonicotinoids, was lawful. Bayer will review the verdict in detail and assess its consequences and potential legal options.

"Bayer decided to pursue legal action to gain clarity on the legal basis of the Commission’s decision, which – in Bayer’s opinion – was uncertain. Bayer remains convinced of the safety of its products when applied in accordance with the label instructions".

They say the loss of neonicotinoid seed treatments will have a huge impact on European sugar beet growers.

Syngenta and Bayer have two months to decide whether to lodge an appeal at the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.


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