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More than 30 separate scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids, which attack insects' nerve systems, and falling bee numbers. The proposal by European Commission - the EU's legislative body - to ban the insecticides was based on a study by the European Food Safety Authority, which found in January that the pesticides did pose a risk to bees' health.
The issue has fiercely divided the scientific community. Green groups and some scientists say the effects of the neonicotinoids are particularly devastating as the pesticide is applied to the seeds. That means it is present not only in the leaves which the insects eat, but also the pollen.