March 18, 2016 / 1:17 PM / a year ago

France moves towards full ban on pesticides blamed for bee losses

PARIS, March 18 (Reuters) - French lawmakers approved plans for a total ban on some widely used pesticides blamed for harming bees, going beyond European Union restrictions in a fierce debate that has pitched farmers and chemical firms against beekeepers and green groups.

The EU limited the use of neonicotinoid chemicals, produced by companies including Bayer CropScience and Syngenta , two years ago after research pointed to risks for bees, which play a crucial role pollinating crops.

Crop chemical makers say the research blaming neonicotinoid pesticides is not backed up by field evidence and a global plunge in bee numbers in recent years is a complex phenomenon due to multiple factors.

The French outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides was adopted by a narrow majority late on Thursday by France's National Assembly as part of a draft bill on biodiversity that also contains an additional tax on palm oil.

The measure, however, would not come into effect until Sept. 1, 2018, later than the January 2017 deadline previously proposed by some lawmakers.

The ban also needs to be approved by the French Senate, which rejected it in a previous reading, before a final vote in the National Assembly which is expected in the middle of the year. (Reporting by Emile Picy and Gus Trompiz; editing by Bate Felix and David CLarke)

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