On Sept. 1, France outlawed five neonicotinoid pesticides to help protect its bee population.
The move makes France the first country to impose a blanket ban on the chemicals, putting it ahead of a European Union decision earlier this year that prohibited outdoor use of three types of neonicotinoid pesticides.
A decrease in bee populations in Europe and elsewhere through so-called colony collapse disorder has led to growing scrutiny in the use of the substances. Neonicotinoids bind to neurotransmitter receptors and may be addictive to bees.
A United Nations-sponsored report detailing the extinction threat for pollinator species found that 75% of global crops rely, at least in part, on the insects.
French farmers’ unions and pesticide manufacturers oppose the ban, arguing that the pesticides are critical to protecting plants from invasive pests. They also claim that not enough evidence exists linking the pesticides to bee decline.
In April, European Union member states voted in favor of banning the outdoor use of three types of neonicotinoid pesticides—clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam—for outdoor use by the end of 2018. They could continue to be used in greenhouses. Two other neonicotinoids—thiacloprid and acetamiprid—included in the French ban are not covered by the European decision.