The European Union (EU) Court of Justice has dismissed an appeal by German chemical giant Bayer to overturn its ban on insecticides which have been linked to harming bees, Bloomberg reported on 6 May.

In 2013, restrictions had been imposed on the use of the insecticides in the EU due to concerns about bee deaths.

Bayer and Swiss crop protection and seeds producer Syngenta had lost an earlier court battle in 2018, the report said, when the companies had told judges the ban was forcing farmers to revert to potentially more harmful chemicals.

In its latest decision, the court dismissed Bayer’s new appeal finding there were no legal errors in the European Commission’s decision to impose restrictions based on concerns that the chemicals posed “high acute risks for bees” and “the survival and development of colonies in several crops”, according to Bloomberg.

The EU’s original decision in 2013 had imposed limits on the use of three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam – saying they were “harmful” to Europe’s honeybee population when used to treat flowering plants with nectar that attracts the insects, the news agency wrote.

The court ruled on 6 May that the commission “is entitled to consider that a risk to the colonies could not be ruled out” even if there is “scientific uncertainty at this stage as to the rate of mortality of individual bees.”

In an emailed statement quoted by Bloomberg, Bayer said that the latest ruling “seems to allow the commission almost carte blanche to review existing approvals upon the slightest evidence, which need not even be new scientific data.”

The company said it accepted the 2018 decision to broadly restrict the use of certain neonicotinoids in agriculture, but that it “stands by the safety of its products – which have been approved by regulatory bodies around the globe –and reiterates the value that these products have for farmers in managing pests effectively.”

In 2018, EU governments had voted in favour of widening the ban of neonicotinoids to apply everywhere, excluding greenhouses, Bloomberg said, with the EC describing the chemical as “systemic”, causing the entire plant to become toxic to bees.

Last year, France had partially lifted a ban on neonicotinoids by allowing its use for seed coatings until 2023 after farmers had suffered heavy losses from beet yellows virus spread by aphids that neonicotinoids help control, the report said.

Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority said in December it would assess 21 emergency authorisations by EU nations to use neonicotinoids for sugar beet crop.