Europe will enforce the world’s first continent-wide ban on widely used insecticides linked to serious harm in bees, after a European Commission (EC) vote on Monday.

The landmark suspension is a victory for millions of environment campaigners concerned about dramatic declines in bees, who were backed by experts at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). But it is a serious defeat for the chemical companies, who make billions a year from the products and also two U.K. ministers, who both argued that the ban will harm food production.

Neonicotinoids have been widely used for more than decade and are used as seed treatments rather than sprays, meaning the insecticide pervades the growing plant, as well as its nectar and pollen. They are less harmful than some of the sprays they replaced, but scientific studies have increasingly linked them to poor bee health.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013