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Europe bans some pesticides to help bees


A bumble bee collects nectar from the calyx of a marguerite in Berlin on July 11, 2011. Like their relatives the honey bees, bumble bees feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young.



Europe is moving to ban some pesticides in a bid to save the continent's bee population.

The ban will take effect in 27 countries at the end of the year after studies showed that three kinds of pesticides -- clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam -- can be harmful to bees, which are on the decline across Europe.

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The measure will last for two years unless new information becomes available.

It is the world's first continent-wide ban on the chemicals.

Bees account for 80 percent of plant pollination by insects, vital to global food production. Without them, many crops would be unable to bear fruit or would have to be pollinated by hand.

Environmentalists cheered the move. Many had spent weeks drumming up support for the restrictions in various European capitals dressed in bee costumes.

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"This decision is a significant victory for common sense and our beleaguered bee populations," Andrew Pendleton, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told CNN. "Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators."

But chemical companies aren't happy about the ban, and many farmers and crop experts say the data available is insufficient.

"Instead of banning these products, the commission should now take the opportunity to address the real reasons for bee health decline: Disease, viruses and loss of habitat and nutrition," John Atkin, chief operating officer of pesticide giant Syngenta, said in a statement.

The UK was among eight countries that voted against the ban.

AFP contributed to this report.