By Mayukh Saha
Recently, the world has awakened to yet another negative effect of excessive pesticide use. In many places, the population of the bees has been drastically coming down which significantly signifies impending doom.
Even after realising the perils, not all nations have taken remedial measures. Some have even decided to sanction newer chemicals which are expected to be even more disastrous in this regard. However, France isn’t going to sit quietly.
The French nation is on track to becoming the first European country to ban five varieties of pesticides. Researchers are convinced that these neonicotinoids are very harmful as they are killing the bees.
Now, in the wake of such a radical decision, there have obviously been reactions from many sides. There’s no doubt that bee-keepers and environmentalists are utterly elated at the decision. However, sugar beet and cereal farmers are not very excited about it. They fear that this ban will make their crops vulnerable to other insects and pests.
Through the enforcement of this ban, France has indeed moved beyond the apparent boundaries set by the European Union. While only three neonicotinoids had been outlawed by the EU, France went on to ban all five of them.
Moreover, this ban is applicable not only in outdoor fields but also within greenhouses.
Britain had initially opposed this ban, but they eventually came around after more evidence surfaced supporting this. More so, after researchers discovered these pesticides cause the mysterious “colony collapse disaster” among bees in Europe and elsewhere.
In this phenomenon, large communities of bees suddenly die. Apart from the pesticides, this may also be caused by fungi, viruses, and mites.
Moreover, the bees have been seen to get addicted to these harmful pesticides. Yes, just like we are addicted to nicotine or other similar substances.
These synthetic neonicotinoids have a similar structure to that of nicotine. Since their introduction in the mid-1990s, these chemicals have been attacking the insects’ central nervous systems.
Presently, this category of pesticides is the most commonly used variant. These were seen as replacements for the other, more harmful, pesticides used in the past. They are mostly used in treating fruit trees, vineyards, beets, and other flowering plants.
However, according to many studies, these chemicals mess with the sperm count of the male bees. They also cause serious disorientation of the bees’ memory and their ability to return home. Plus, the fact remains that the bees are addicted to the pesticide mixed nectar. As a result, they do not naturally stay away from these.
In this context, some angry French farmers have vehemently argued against this ban. They feel that there’s a lack of substantial evidence to connect the pesticides with the decline in the bee population.
FNSEA, the largest farming union in France, has called for an exemption of this ban in cases where there’s no adequate alternative. Moreover, they’ve pointed out that such a ban would lead to unfair competition between producers from Europe and those from elsewhere.
Contrary to the claims of the members of the farming unions, the French public health agency, ANSES, claimed otherwise. In their view, quite a few sustainable and efficient alternatives are already operational in France.
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Some have even hailed the prospects of a ban on pesticides as a whole. They feel that one pesticide would be replaced by another and their bees would continue to die as a result. According to them, there could be any improvement in their condition only if every pesticide was banned.
One way or the other, the decision by the French nation has been more praised than rebuked and it’s quite rightly so.