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Honeybee disappearance: will the Authorities finally act?

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Neonicotinoids and phenylpyrazoles, two families of pesticides used since the 90’s are accused to be at the origin of the massive disappearance of honeybee colonies worldwide spreading parallel to the use of these chemicals. Huge gaps have been identified at pesticide risk assessment by EFSA and scientific evidences prove their noxious effects on bees. What are the European Commission and Member States waiting for?

Before the insistence of beekeeping and environmentalist organizations to tackle this issue, the European Commission has, after several years, finally asked the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) to re-evaluate this risk assessment scheme to bees. Lately, EFSA has acknowledged enormous shortcomings and lacks of the actual risk assessment scheme: disorientation, larvae toxicity and long-term effects of pesticides are not evaluated before authorization is granted. All pesticides that are in use in the European Union have thus been authorized without any correct assessment and may thus be highly toxic for honeybees and other pollinators.

Several recent scientific studies corroborate this concern: thiametoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid, three hazardous neonicotinoids, were proven to have adverse effects on bees’ orientation capacity and bumblebees reproduction capacity.

Considering EFSA’s acknowledgment on the weakness of the assessment scheme of pesticides risks to bees and the increasing number of articles pointing at neonicotinoids and phenylpyrazoles as main culprits in honeybees disappearing, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe and the European Beekeeping Coordination (EBC) demand an immediate ban on these molecules by the European Commission. A new assessment scheme is being prepared by EFSA and these chemicals should undergo a new evaluation process, especially concerning long-term toxicity and sub-lethal effects. PAN Europe and EBC totally oppose to the implicit suggestion of the EFSA towards the European Commission to ask for new fundamental studies on honeybee toxicology before taking any decision: evidence are there and disappearing of honeybee colonies as well as wild pollinators cannot wait for new studies: pollination crisis and protection of our environment need urgent decisions. PAN Europe and EBC nevertheless support any further investigation in order to better understand honeybee and other pollinator’s biology.

In its report, EFSA states that “The final decision on protection goals needs to be taken by risk managers. There is a trade-off between plant protection and the protection of bees. The effects on pollinators need to be weighed against increase in crop yields due to better protection of crops against pests.” PAN Europe and EBC fiercely oppose to this political statement given by the agency whose role is only to give scientific opinions. Pesticides can be avoided in many cases by using agricultural techniques such as the use of resistant varieties, crop rotation, restoration of biodiversity and nature’s own pest management system or simply by using pesticides when needed and not systematically.

Regarding their fundamental role as pollinators of 80% of the crop produced in Europe, honeybees and other pollinators (bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies, etc.) must be protected and our future food safety cannot be bargained as proposed by EFSA. It is now time for the Commission and Member States to act!

Further information For further information please contact:

Pesticide Action Network Europe: Martin Dermine: Tel: +32 (0)2 5033137.

European Beekeeping Coordination: Francesco Panella: Tel: + 39 3356279401.

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