French bee keepers are up in arms over the authorisation of an insecticide they warn could sound the death knell of their already decimated bee population.

Bee hives have been hit in Europe, North America and elsewhere by a mysterious phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder”. The blight has been blamed on mites, a virus or fungus, pesticides, or a combination of factors.

With the honey harvest in France down to just 10,000 tons this year – three times less than in the 1990s – the country’s national apiculture union, UNAF, slammed what it called the “scandalous” authorisation of sulfaoxaflor, which attacks the central nervous system of insects.

According to UNAF, sulfaoxaflor acts like a neonicotinoid, a pesticide based on the chemical structure of nicotine that many blame for being at least partially responsible for plummeting bee populations.

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