Bees & pesticides in the frontline of the EU policy

Tuesday 29 January 2013

pesticides neonicotinoids bee losses

Press release - Brussels 25.01.2013 - Risks claimed by beekeepers of commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides are finally acknowledged at EU level. The Commission will decide whether to apply the precautionary principle and on further alternative measures by end of February/beginning of March, said Eric Poudelet, Director of DG SANCO, at the European Parliament committee for Environment yesterday. He added that the Commission is going to act in terms of research and legislation.

The impact of neonicotinoids1 on bee losses were recently highlighted by an European Parliament note2 and confirmed by an European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) review3. Identified risks for bees come from bees exposure to contaminated nectar, pollen and dust from sowing treated seeds. EFSA report also points out gaps of information - e.g. in terms of exposure to contaminated plant exudates or honeydew, persistence of residues in the environment and succeeding crops, chronic and sub-lethal effects - which impede to fully assess the risk that these molecules pose to bees.

Based on current assessments, the Commission could trigger the precautionary principle for neonicotinoids in two ways: first, opting for a complete ban of an active substances in case its safety can not be assessed due to scientific uncertainties - secondly, taking specific measures for uses and crops in regard to specific identified risks.

Recent European Environment Agency (EEA) report4 highlights case studies for which the precautionary principle is compatible with innovation and shows that the high cost of inaction should be taken into consideration when dealing with environmental issues. Based on the conclusion of the EEA report and on countries such as France, Germany, Slovenia and Italy which already have suspended the authorisation for some specific uses of neonicotinoids, arguments such as the ban of neonicotinoids would decrease 50 000 jobs and cost 17 billion euro within 5 years - mentioned by the representative of the phytosanitary industry (ECPA) should not frighten policy makers to take early decisions, nor farmers and industries to act in innovative and sustainable ways. These figures contrast with the pollination value of 15 billion euro per year provided by bees in the EU.

The European Beekeeping Coordination wises that Commission takes a decision coherent with what science has already proved. Similarly, we look forward to a complete risk assessment of pesticides on bees that includes their impact in the long-term of both high and low doses on individual and bee colonies. Finally, the EBC is ready to work with the Commission on specific actions and further alternative measures - in terms of validation of methodologies, mitigation measures, standardisation of the EU regulation, authorisations - to ensure a healthy environment in which bees and beekeepers can help agricultural production.
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For more information please contact: Francesco Panella, spokesman for European Beekeeping Coordination, Tel: +32 10 47 16 34, -

1 Neonicotinoid pesticides: systemic, persistent in the environment and highly toxic to bees
2 Existing scientific evidence of the effect of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees - European Parliament note (2012)
3 Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessement for bees for the active substance clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam - EFSA (2013)
4 Late Lessons from early warnings: sciences, precaution, innovation“ European Environmental Agency (2013)