The Bee Week has just ended, what are your first impressions?
It is always positive to have a moment when the attention focuses on beekeeping and the current state of pollinators, particularly regarding public decisions. Moreover, it is always useful to try to get along with different stakeholders. Notably, in this case, trying to build a dialogue between two types of producers: farmers and beekeepers.
PAN Europe commented: "Sadly, the Bee Week is losing credibility. ECPA, COPA-COGECA and CIBE have been incredibly active in lobbying the European institutions to avoid a ban on neonicotinoids despite the fact that there is no more doubt about their toxicity to pollinators and the environment as a whole. We do not understand why MEPs accept to take part in such an event co-organised by those responsible for honey bees’, bumble bees’ or butterflies’ decline!"
You also stated that the discussion avoided the real questions, that is to say?
Unfortunately, this edition was organised with very little time, but above all, it was evident that the majority of organisations and co-organisers of the week have a strong will to prevent a debate which aims at the critical questions on the pollinator health.
What are the critical questions?
We need to look no further than the example of neonicotinoids. Fortunately, and finally, the EU has banned all open-air uses of three neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticides in the world! The motivation? To avoid harmful effects, not only to the health of humans but especially to the environment. It is the first time in history that we have a decision of such importance. This is an overwhelming victory thanks to the arguments and denunciations of beekeepers. However, it is also an outstanding opportunity for reflection and self-criticism for agricultural organisations, who are subordinate to the agrochemical lobby in this regard. Unfortunately, such awaited self-criticism did not take place at the Bee Week. In fact, only one representative of agricultural organisations addressed this topic. He did so to insist, once more, on prioritising the protection of sugarbeet crops with pesticides as if there were no alternatives available. Nevertheless, we are convinced that we can only find solutions regarding agronomy and pesticides if we look for them, and especially if we have the will and the interest to find them.
Furthermore, are there positive examples in crop/pollinator relationships?
All evidence indicates that the current paradigm of agricultural production increasingly expands the green deserts and the biocide of invertebrates and pollinators. We have expressed the need for flowering rather than greening of the CAP. However, the debate was strictly limited to private examples on small scales or even individual ones. The real question to be asked is: How to organise the investment of public resources differently so that these private examples become a general agricultural practice in Europe? Only by doing so will we be able to reverse the effects of environmental contamination and the negative pollinator trends we are experiencing today.
What are your proposals concerning the priorities for sustainable agriculture?
I hope that agricultural organisations are finally able and willing to act towards countering the effects of current production methodologies. As well that they can start a new reflection before it is too late. The pollinator's current situation already requires it.
Besides, varietal selection criteria should also include the production of pollen and nectar from naturally melliferous plants such as sunflower or rapeseed. We hope that the selections introduce melliferous and polliniferous productivity as a required criterion. Also, we can promote the use of these seeds in the CAP.
In addition, public policies must include pollinators as bioindicators, reinforcing a multi-disciplinary approach and improving relationships between farmers and beekeepers. Thus, without a doubt, the CAP would favour crops that benefit from pollination. It is time to place bees back at the centre of public policies, as an indicator of their quality. So, we ought to decide to use bees in the CAP to verify the sustainability of agriculture. Thanks to bees, we will be able to observe which contaminants are present in the hives and which pollen varieties are available throughout the year.
Ensuring the survival of pollinators and their health is not an obstacle for agriculture; instead, it can be a valuable opportunity to improve our agricultural model!