This week the French government announced that it plans to prohibit the use of Cruiser OSR, a pesticide manufactured by the Swiss company Syngenta that researchers say may contribute to the massive disappearance of bees. The ban comes in the light of studies indicating that pesticides such as Cruiser OSR are linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon that has occurred throughout the world that worries agronomists, farmers and environmentalists alike. The problem is critical because of the role pollination has in agriculture, and it has festered in North America and Europe since 2006.
France’s government agency responsible for environmental regulations, the National Agency for Food, Safety, and the Environment (ANSES), has confirmed recent studies that suggest Cruiser OSR contains the toxin thiamethoxam. Cruiser OSR is technically a neonictinoid pesticide, which works by impairing insect’s central nervous systems. The challenge for researchers was proving that such chemicals, even if they do not directly kill bees, still harm beehives.
An ANSES study found that even in low doses, thiamethoxam causes bees to lose their way and then die. ANSES researchers attached tiny microchips to honeybees with thiamethoxam and found that bees exposed to the chemical were up to three times more likely not to return after a foraging trip. A study U.S researchers recently conducted has found similar results on bee populations.
Farmers in France use Cruiser OSR to protect the cultivation of crops including rapeseed, the oil of which is an important feedstock for biofuels. The finding could complicate the European Union’s goal to ramp up biofuel production significantly by 2020. Meanwhile Syngenta has protested the ruling and denied that its products have any harmful impact on bees. The French government has granted Syngenta two weeks to prove definitively that the pesticide has no link to the decline in the population of bees.