The following text has been translated from its original version in French, authored by Agnès Fayet, communications and project officer at CARI (Centre Apicole de Recherche et d'Information). CARI is a member of BeeLife.
Originally published at CARI's website The three days of the Bee Week 2018, organised by MEP Michel Dantin, had the interest to gather people from different realms to exchange and express their proposals, points of view and constraints. The event counted with the participation of scientists, politicians, farmers, beekeepers, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders. It is clear that both dialogue and consultation remain at all times fundamental to try to reach a proper consent among different agents surrounding bee health. Be that as it may, a picture of the current situation has emerged, and there is always an advantage in knowing the actors on the scene and the current trends which we will have to monitor carefully. The role of EFSA is strengthened. It is officially the coordinating reference body for research work on the issue of bee health. It is now coordinating a partnership for data collection and sharing (to which Bee Life is part of) on this issue at European level.
MEPs Michel Dantin and Mairead McGuinness at the opening of the Bee Week 2018
The collection and processing of data is undoubtedly a current issue that relies on the necessary collaboration between all stakeholders. Let's hope that the implementation of concrete applications will be fast enough to respond to the environmental emergency we are facing. Some beekeepers express an understandable scepticism about the gap between the need to give back the place nature keeps losing every day and the new technologies (biological engineering, environmental modelling, precision agriculture, connected hives, and others) that are presented as solutions. Francesco Panella, President of BeeLife, expressed the beekeeping industry's fears about a red carpet rolled out with the latest technological innovations: "Today, flowers no longer produce pollen or nectar because of the selection of which they are the object. We have ghost flowers in the fields." It is necessary to clarify what are the technological innovations that are presented as part of the solution and to consider their impact not only on pollinators but also on all ecosystems.
Francesco Panella, President of BeeLife at the Bee Week 2018
The main positive points probably come from the position of the European Commission, expressed, among other things, by the video interventions of two Commissioners. Commissioner Karmenu Vella (Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) notes that intensive agriculture and pesticides are stressors for all pollinators. He said that monitoring of this impact on pollinators will be proposed through "pollination indicators" and promises that the new CAP will take into account the need for pollinator-friendly habitats. It remains to be clear what the concept of "pollination indicators" covers and to be careful that these indicators will indeed be favourable to pollinators. Let us be wary of "false indicators" that could emerge at the whim of the interests of some sectors. Making constructive proposals in short time will be necessary. Stefan Leiner, Head of the Biodiversity Unit, (DG Environment, European Commission) recalled the Commission's main priorities, namely the fight against land degradation, the decline of pollinators and the impoverishment of natural habitats. Strengthening knowledge and capacity to control pollinators will be priorities. As part of the future CAP, a series of useful measures will be put in place to combat the decline of all pollinators (we appreciate the inclusiveness of the declaration): integrated pest management, alternatives to pesticides, and others. The exchanges with the farmers recall that there is no consensus from their point of view concerning the ban of neonicotinoids and glyphosate. The new political decisions are not well accepted, and this constitutes a risk of seeing all the efforts invested so far undermined. Commissioner Phil Hogan (Agriculture and Rural Development), for his part, recalled the key objectives to cope with the international efforts needed to preserve pollinators: intensify training and advisory services, set up investment programs and cooperation, support non-intensive agricultural models, take climate change into account in the new CAP. He recalled that the ban on neonicotinoids would come into effect at the end of 2018. He also mentioned the fact that the budget devoted to beekeeping under the next European assistance program for the beekeeping sector will be increased from € 36 billion to €60 billion (overall European budget for the apicultural sector, subject to hives declaration). Jen Schaps, Director of Organisations for a Common Market for Agricultural Products (DG AGRI, European Commission), said efforts will be made (in particular by DG Health) to fight fraud and control honey. The promise of better protection of hive products is undoubtedly one of the positive points to remember. The health of consumers is now at stake. The Commission's work is in line with the demand of the beekeeping sector: revision of labelling rules to take better account of the origin of honey, fighting against counterfeits, adjustment of the Honey Directive 2001 to include all hive products, support initiatives to introduce honey into school as part of taste training.
Keynote video message from Commissioner Karmenu Vella:
Let's recall that the objective of the European program (co-financed by the States) is the implementation of actions to improve bee production and marketing of bee products. Eight specific measures are eligible for European funding:
Technical assistance: training for beekeepers and beekeepers on topics such as breeding or disease prevention, honey extraction, storage, packaging, labelling, etc. ;
The fight against invasive species and diseases (Asian hornet, small hive beetle, Varroa and their impact);
Rationalisation of transhumance (implications for pollination and bee nutrition);
Hive product analyses: honey, royal jelly, propolis, pollen and beeswax;
Market surveillance of hive products;
Improving the quality of products to exploit their potential in the market.
Comprehensive information on the results of the different programs of the member countries is available on the website of the European Commission. Even considering Etienne Bruneau's welcoming of the announced increase in the budget dedicated to beekeeping, the fact remains that the relationship between pollinators and agriculture will always fall under the second pillar of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). There is a remaining risk of subjecting the fate of the beekeeping sector to the goodwill of the Member States: "When we take stock today, there are few states, not to say very few States, who take into account beekeepers. So if tomorrow beekeepers must become assistants in monitoring programs using their bees, should not we ask that beekeeping is a systematically recognised sector that can emerge without discussion in the 2nd pillar? The budget of beekeeping may represent in the future 0.2% of the budget of the Common Agricultural Policy, it has value for us, but overall it does not weigh very heavily". We often hear that there are other priorities. How can beekeepers be taken into consideration in the framework of the second pillar? Etienne Bruneau's question remained largely unanswered. The position of the beekeeping sector in the CAP 2014-2020 is an important project that is opening up. Numerous cases have made good progress in recent years, particularly concerning recovery and protection of hive products. An event such as the Bee Week makes it possible to understand where to put the energy to continue to defend the European beekeeping sector. Choosing to see the glass as half full rather than half empty will help consolidate the gains.