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Challenges and Opportunities of the Beekeeping Sector - Presentation at the European Parliament

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

On the 9 of July, 2018, MEP Daciana Sarbu organised the event "The European and Romanian Apiculture Sector - Challenges and Opportunities" at the European Parliament. Andrés Salazar, Communications Officer of BeeLife, was a guest speaker to present our view on the challenges that European, and particularly, Romanian beekeepers are facing today. As other speakers did during the event, he remarked the problems surrounding labelling and fraud in the honey market. However, the focus of BeeLife was mainly on the emergency authorisations of neonicotinoids, which Romania has granted for five consecutive years after the initial restrictions came into force in 2013. The event was broadcasted live in Romanian. You may watch the full video or find the extract from Salazar's presentation here. The transcript of the original English version is available below.

Extract from the full event streaming. Retrieved from Calea Europeana

-Original Transcript- Thank you for the introduction. Good evening to everyone. Before beginning, I would like to thank Romapis for the Romanian translation of this presentation. In today's discussion, we have seen some interesting points about beekeeping in Europe. Now, from BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination, in joint efforts with the European Professional Beekeepers Association, I will present you some of the challenges we identify beekeepers are facing today. First of all, we might see that there are three main identified challenges: - Labelling and Fraud. - Interaction with the Agricultural Sector. And - Nutritional Habitats, regarding the quality and quantity of resources. For this last one, we will see the case of neonicotinoids, particularly in the case of Romania.

Price evolution of exported honey 2015-2016, ITC-UNCOMTRADE

Initially, we may see that the price of exported honey has significantly declined between 2015 and 2016. This condition adds pressure to beekeepers who need to face many other challenges to reach a good production and an adequate place in the market. This has been identified as one of the consequences of fraudulent honey, and the need for a labelling scheme that better protects the value of local and export-quality kinds of honey.

World Evolution of tons of exported honey vs number of hives, 2007-2014, FAO ITC-UNCOMTRADE

The rising trends in the last ten years are awing. Exportations of honey have doubled, but the number of hives has not seen such a dramatic increase. Better support for beekeepers would need to comprise the balance between the quality of honey and productivity. How do we explain these trends? The adulteration of honey has reached large-scale levels. Which, no doubt influences the market price as would occur with any other product. But in the end, it is not only a problem of balance in the market. It is a problem for beekeepers, some of who are reaching a point on which their activity is no longer sustainable. Their profession and livelihood are now at risk. There are of course two extremes of the honey market. We can see a more rustic one and, on the other hand, an industrialised one. I would like to leave you with the reflection - which one of them needs support? Especially taking into account the large number of beekeepers that we currently find in Europe. Moving on, we will consider the problems of nutritional habitats. Related to the interactions between beekeepers and the agricultural sector, we can see that there is a problem with the nutritional habitats of our pollinators. Although, we must say that there have been significant developments. Mainly thanks to the agro-environmental measures included in the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy, and the Habitats Directive. It has been a good start, but beekeepers are still concerned. Because of crops profiles and the rate of intensification of agriculture, there are periods of time in the year when there are limited to none available resources for pollinators. But there are opportunities to improve the situation. Namely: - To promote and apply good agricultural practices at Member State level. - To ensure that farmers and beekeepers have an effective collaboration (which can be achieved by continuing to open dialogue spaces and incentivising their joint work). - Encouraging ecological agriculture, one that includes actions such as crop rotations, natural alternatives to pesticides, and other practices that ensure the overall quality of the environment. - Promote and include greening, and, PARTICULARLY, FLOWERING MEASURES that benefit pollinators. - Improving the selection of crops quality taking into account their nutritional value for bees. So that they have high nectar secretion and longer flowering periods. There are also legal challenges that beekeepers are facing today. Particularly in the form of emergency authorisations for substances banned in the EU. One of the most challenging cases beekeepers continue to report in some Member States, is the emergency authorisations for neonicotinoids. This has been one of the great battles beekeepers have fought and, unfortunately, there are still adverse effects on the field. Even though it is usually a tough discussion, there is no doubt that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees. Besides, they persist in the environment for long periods of time thanks, in part, to their solubility, causing long-term effects on the ecosystems. We can quickly review the background for the neonicotinoids case. In the nineties, European beekeepers began to complain about the effects of neonicotinoids on bees. They initially observed that sunflower crops that were treated with neonicotinoids were toxic to bees. In the 2000's, several countries independently banned the use of neonicotinoids after receiving reports and complains of their high toxicity. Later, in 2013, EFSA reviewed scientific publications that reported that some pesticides containing neonicotinoids did not meet the approval criteria for their authorisation. The review by EFSA confirmed the findings, presenting them to the European Commission. In the same year, EFSA's confirmation led to the implementation of Article 21, withdrawing the authorisation for neonicotinoids Clothianidin, Thiamethoxam and Imidacloprid. The Commission heavily restricted the authorised uses of these products. This year, we finally saw the complete ban on all outdoor uses of these substances. And yet, unfortunately, the problems continue. Member States continue to issue emergency authorisations year after year. Let's remember that emergency authorisations are not a joker to avoid EU regulation. Countries should only issue them when, and I quote: "exceptional and restricted cases of obvious dangers to plant production or ecosystems that cannot be contained by any other reasonable means". The criteria for derogation includes: - Economic damage. - The lack of available alternatives. - Planning and delimitation of limited and controlled application of the authorisation. - The presentation of research projects to find alternatives. We can see that emergency authorisations are to be reserved exclusively for exceptional circumstances. However, this is not being respected around Europe. We have seen over a thousand emergency authorisations issued between 2013 and 2016, of which 62 allowed the use of banned neonicotinoids. BeeLife has a clear position. The mechanism is clearly being abused.

Industry participation in emergency authorisations 2014-2016, Bee Emergency Call

Here we can see an interesting report that the industry is continuously present in the cases where derogations are provided. It is a subject worth enquiring, notably since the Commission's Guidance states that "applications solely based on industry interests should be refused". I invite you all to see our joint report with Client Earth, PAN Europe and Romapis. You may find that in the Bee Emergency Call document, there are some interesting insights on the derogations which continue to trouble beekeepers in some Member States. We have found that Member States do not adequately provide information on the dangers or risks on which they base their derogations. In fact, 82% of notifications to the European Commission did not provide economic evidence of the threat. And 79% of notifications did not list any alternatives to control the pests. Moreover, the majority failed to provide any information that the banned pesticides will be used in a "limited and controlled way". One of the cases that concern us the most is Romania. It is worrying to see that the pleads of some Romanian beekeepers to fix the situation continue to go unheard. Regrettably, 2018 marks the 5th consecutive year that the government issues derogations to the three restricted neonicotinoids. We need to put this into a serious examination. Are these to be considered as "emergency authorisations" after five years? From 20 notifications between 2014 and 2016, Romania has presented 0 evidence of research on alternatives. Other authorities have found issues as well. The Food and Veterinary Office has already reported numerous breaches of the derogations' rules.

Here you may see the extension of neonicotinoid use under the derogations around Romania. You may notice on this map the extension of neonicotinoid-coated seeds of oilseed rape.

Second, coated seeds of corn and sunflower. And due to a lack of geographical delimitation for the use of treated seeds, they have been sowed even in areas with low levels of pest infestation. The European Commission has reacted to the situation, but it is still not enough. It mandated the EFSA to provide technical assistance to assess the emergency authorisations of 2017, but as it published the results less than a month ago, it was too late to avoid abuses. What good is this assistance if it comes at a time when crops have already been planted, reaped and even commercialised? So far, there are no concrete actions to impede Member States to abuse article 53 to avoid EU-wide bans. Reviewing the procedure of emergency authorisations is imperative. Romanian beekeepers in 2018 are experiencing the same issues that their French colleagues did in 1995. Have we not learned anything in the last 20 years? With the new ban on neonicotinoids at hand, we have the opportunity to stand right with the beekeepers and the respect of the ecosystems. That's why BeeLife and its members ask, Will the EU enforce the legality of the ban and avoid the use of emergency authorisations as a loophole? We propose to you today: Let's conceive bees as a bioindicator of the quality of the environment. If we want bees to thrive, they need resources in both quantity and quality; and beekeepers need the proper conditions for their labour. Thank you for your attention. -Transcript Ends-

For further information on the emergency authorisations, see also Bee Emergency Call. Report on emergency authorisations around Europe, including more extensive information on the Romanian case.

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