The European Union has approved restrictions on three pesticides to better protect dwindling bee populations, to enter into force by December.

EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg called Friday's decision a "milestone towards ensuring a healthier future for our honeybees." The move is backed by environmentalists but opposed by chemical companies.

Friday's official approval of the measure following a tentative deal last month restricts three neonicotinoid pesticides on plants and cereals that attract bees. It will last for two years unless decisive new information becomes available.

Beekeepers have reported an unusual decline over the past decade, particularly in Western Europe. They say bees are critically important to the environment, sustaining biodiversity by providing pollination for a wide range of crops and wild plants — including most of Europe's food crops.