The EU Court of Justice confirmed that the European Commission (EC) decision to protect bees by introducing a ban on the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides on flowering crops, was proper and legal.

Bayer and Syngenta had challenged the decisions, claiming that the EC exceeded its remit, the economic cost to the pesticide industry should have been a key factor in the decision, the bee pesticide risk assessment document should not have been used (because all member states had not endorsed it), the science showed neonicotinoids were safe to bees and other grounds.

Buglife and a number of European NGOs stepped in to support the EC in the court room, while pesticides companies were bolstered by legal teams from seed distributors and farmer’s unions.

The decisions of the court rejects the pesticide companies’ claims and ensures that not only does the 2013 partial ban decision stand, but that in the future bees should only suffer ‘negligible’ exposure to harmful pesticides.

The decision also means that the recent vote by EU Member States to introduce a more comprehensive ban on the three neonicotinoid seed treatments should also result in a legally robust ban.

Matt Shardlow, Buglife chief executive said: “We hope that the pesticide companies will now start to act responsibly, withdrawing neonicotinoid seed treatments globally and agreeing to test the wild bee safety of all new insecticides.”

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) expressed disappointment at the ruling. The organisation believes in an approval system that is based on scientific evidence, independent review and an assessment of impacts, rather than politics.

Hazel Doonan, head of AIC’s crop protection sector said: “Effective modern crop protection products are an essential part of meeting UK government’s drive to raise productivity whilst enhancing the environment. If innovation is to take place, it relies on those involved in discovering and bringing new technology to the market, to have a clear regulatory framework within which to operate.”