The European Parliament finally agrees that we need higher protection measures for bees and pollinators

On Wednesday 23rd October 2019, the European Parliament took a very important decision. To support the motion of the beekeeping and environmental organizations against the Commission's draft proposal amending Regulation (EU) No 546/2011 (it refers to implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards uniform principles for evaluation and authorisation of plant protection products).

The "Save the Bees Coalition" with all 80 NGOs and beekeeping organisations, including APIMONDIA, started a new battle against Commission's draft proposal amending Regulation (EU) No 546/2011. First on the meeting of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee of the European Parliament and immediately after on the plenary meeting of the European Parliament a veto to Commissions’ draft regulation was placed. On Monday 21st October 2919 the ENVI Committee rejected the Commission’s regulation with 62 votes in favor, 4 against and 7 abstentions. Finally, on Wednesday 23rd October 2019, the European Parliament approved the objection with 533 votes in favor, 67 against and 100 abstentions. The European Parliament with this decision confirms the will to achieve higher levels of protection standards for bees, other pollinators and environment.

For the history of the event:

The EU Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, states that pesticides must have "no unacceptable acute or chronic effects on colony survival and development, taking into account effects on honeybee larvae and honeybee behaviour". Based on that, and after a strong battle initiated by several environmental and beekeeping organisations, in December 2013, the European Commission restricted temporarily the use of 3 highly bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, namely imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. In April 2018, almost 5 years later of the partial ban on these substances, and after lots of new scientific knowledge came into light, the Standing Committee finally voted in favour of a continuous ban on all outdoor uses of the three pesticides. This decision was based on in-depth assessment of these pesticides’ risks to bees, carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). using its own guidance document, the Bee Guidance Document. The BGD is the only comprehensive and upto-date manual till now that describes in detail and in a scientific way how to assess the impact of pesticides on all pollinators, including acute and chronic toxicity. Honeybee, bumble bee s and solitary bees are all included in the BGD.

However, these three pesticides are not the only ones posing a risk to bees. Other substances have also been shown to have adverse effects on the health of bees especially after chronic exposure. Apimondia, together with 80 other beekeeping and environmental organisations, which form the Save of Bees Coalition, believe that only if all pesticides are regulated to the same high standards as these three neonicotinoids, EU will be able to protect the bees and other pollinators effectively.

Both the Commission and EFSA have repeatedly stated that they support the 2013 Bee Guidance document. But Member States have blocked its application in the Standing Committee on Plant, Animal, Food and Feed. The EC in its 2018 EU Initiative on Pollinators (July 2018) submitted a proposal for a step wise implementation of the EFSA BGD to the SCoPAFF, starting with the protocols to assess acute, chronic and larval toxicity on bees, for which internationally agreed guidelines are available. However, in its October 2018, December 2018 and January 2019 meetings, Member States rejected this proposal. It was after that time, that the European Commission started to elaborate a “compromise” Regulation amending Regulation (EU) No 546/2011, according to which:

- only the section of the EFSA BGD concerning the acute toxicity tests, and only for honeybees will be used: the adoption of all other sections will be postponed until the publication of a “revised” version of the EFSA BGD.

- key tests to assess the risk of pesticides on bees (as chronic toxicity and larval toxicity) will be left out and the effects of pesticides on pollinators other than honeybees will be ignored until a review of the EFSA BGD takes place.

European citizens are aware of how important the application of robust pre-approval tests of pesticides is to reversing pollinator declines and demand the immediate and integral adoption of the 2013 EFSA guidance. In other words, the new proposal by the Commission would not improve the present assessment scheme, but it would rather take years and threaten the survival of pollinators, while adopting the test protocols already available and internationally validated, could already make the difference for the survival of all pollinators in the EU.