Science

Greenpeace Poland files legal complaint against minister over pesticide use

Environmental activist group Greenpeace lodged a legal complaint against Poland's agriculture minister Thursday, accusing him of wrongly allowing the use of neonicotinoid pesticides restricted by the EU over fears that they imperil bee populations.

A Bulgarian beekeeper picks up dead bees during a demonstration against the use of bee-kiling pesticides in Sofia in April 2013
A Bulgarian beekeeper picks up dead bees during a demonstration against the use of bee-kiling pesticides in Sofia in April 2013 (AFP)

Environmental activist group Greenpeace lodged a legal complaint against Poland's agriculture minister Thursday, accusing him of wrongly allowing the use of neonicotinoid pesticides restricted by the EU over fears that they imperil bee populations.

Greenpeace has filed a complaint with the prosecutor general's office alleging that minister Jan Ardanowski "violated" procedures by twice allowing the use of the restricted insecticides.

"He made a bad decision in giving in July his temporary authorisation (to use neonicotinoids) which, in fact might be in the interest of rapeseed growers, but is to the detriment of the 60,000 Polish beekeepers," said Katarzyna Jagiello, describing the minister's actions as "absolutely scandalous".

Greenpeace said that in October Ardanowski also granted emergency authorisations for the use of neonicotinoid pesticide on sugar beet crops, in accordance with provisions in the EU restrictions.

Its complaint has been filed jointly with the Frank Bold legal group, which specialises in environmental, human rights and anti-corruption cases.

The prosecutor can decide if a minister has over-stepped their role.

"He delivered his authorisations very quickly, without consulting beekeepers, without taking account of the results of scientific research nor a negative opinion from the environment ministry," said Bartosz Kwiatkowski of Frank Bold.

Last week, beekeepers sent a letter to the minister protesting against his decisions as "harmful both for beekeepers and for the environment".

Partial EU ban

The European Union issued a partial ban on three neonicotinoids in 2013, but the bloc has since taken more drastic action after a major report by European food safety agency targeted the chemicals.

In April, EU countries voted for an outright ban on the use of the three neonicotinoid pesticides -- clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam -- in fields meaning that they can only now be used in sealed greenhouses. A top European Union court upheld the ban in May.

The pesticides are based on the chemical structure of nicotine and attack the nervous systems of insect pests.

Past studies have found neonicotinoids can cause bees to become so disorientated that they cannot find their way back to the hive, and lower their resistance to disease.

Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world's major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from "colony collapse disorder," a mysterious scourge blamed partly on pesticides.

According to the EU, several member states have granted emergency authorisations for some restricted uses of the neonicotinoid pesticides -- notably Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Hungary, Finland, Latvia and Estonia.

The EU's top court in April ruled Poland's right-wing government broke the law by logging in one of the continent's last primeval forests.

Poland is due to host vital UN climate talks in December, where nations must finalise on a legal framework to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.