the French government has banned the use of the pesticide imidacloprid for treating corn seeds. In January 2004, it had extended the suspension on the chemical's use on sunflower seeds for three years. The country's beekeepers have been protesting against the pesticide, alleging that it causes high mortality among bees. According to them, it has killed 90 billion bees in the past decade.
Imidacloprid, sold under the trade name Gaucho among many others, is slowly released in plants. It protects them by destroying the insects' sense of direction. The bees are said to die because of this impairment. The loss of these insects does not merely mean reduced honey production. They play a significant role in the entire agricultural cycle as pollinators for various fruit crops and contribute heavily to a country's farm economy.
The French minister for agriculture, food, fisheries and rural affairs, Herve Gaymard, announced on May 25 that the country would stop using Gaucho to treat corn seeds until the European Commission reviews the pesticide in 2006. "The results of the examination on the risks of seed treatment by Gaucho are alarming," reads an agriculture ministry report prepared last year. "Concerning the treatment of maize seeds by Gaucho, the results are as disturbing as with sunflower. The consumption of contaminated pollen can lead to an increased mortality of care-taking bees, which explains the persisting bee deaths even after the ban on the treatment of sunflower," it adds.
Gaucho is produced by the German agrochemical group Bayer. The German non-governmental organisation, Coalition against Bayer-Dangers (CBG), has been demanding a ban on its use in Germany, where the pesticide is mainly used on rape, sugar beet and maize.
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