Said Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumers, "we now need to carefully assess all the policy options that are available to us before bringing forward any legislative and harmonised proposals".
And so it was yesterday that we had M. Frédéric Vincent telling us that the Commission proposed that the Member States suspend for two years the use of these pesticides in seeds, granulates and sprays for crops which attract bees; sunflower, rape, maize and cotton.
Vincent acknowledged that the issue had been on the table of the Council on Monday and it was true that some delegations expressed the view that it was necessary to pursue further analyses. Some big countries, he also said, "didn't express their view" but there was to be a "discussion". Member States would react and if there was a regulation, it would be before March.
This has now been processed into news by the assembled hacks, a typical result emerging in EU business
, with the headline: "EU urges two-year ban on 'disturbing' bee insecticides".
Interestingly, the copy tells us that, "the EU urged national governments on Thursday to ban pesticides deemed dangerous to bees by scientific experts in a bid to prevent a disastrous collapse in colony numbers for an insect considered vital to the integrity of the human food chain".
We also learn that "major EU states Germany, Britain and Spain", amongst others, indicated serious reservations about the plans, but the decisive meeting is set for 25 February. The chemicals then to be discussed are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, produced by pharmaceutical giants Bayer, Syngenta and Cruiser OSR.
Cut to Bayer CropScience
, which believes that "the Commission's overly conservative interpretation of the precautionary principle is a missed opportunity to achieve a fair and proportional solution". It wants the Commission to refer back to "solid science" before making any proposals.
The Company was a little more robust
to the House of Commons environmental audit committee recently, having its Dr Julian Little telling MPs that the EU was in danger of "enshrining some sort of museum agriculture".
"I personally absolutely support very strict regulation, but not to the point where we believe you are taking out major advances in chemistry and major advances in agriculture with no discernible improvement in bee health", he said.
Defra rejected a ban late last year saying the scientific evidence wasn't clear, and have commissioned new studies that will look at the impacts of neonicotinoids on bumble bees in field conditions. Unfortunately, the results of those studies are not yet available.
But what Defra thinks doesn't really matter. We are one voice in 27. The "experts" of the standing committee will do the deed, using the comitology process. Rumour has it that there are only three people in the world who have understood the process – one is dead, the second is in a mental asylum and the third exiled himself to a desert island. But whatever the committee decides, we will comply.
That is how our government works.