Members of the European Parliament decided during today's plenary (Oct 23) to object the proposal in the amending Regulation (EU) No 546/2011 regarding the assessment of the impact of pesticides on bees. The European Commission's plan introduced a strongly limited application of the recommendations by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). On Monday, an overwhelming majority of the ENVI Committee in the European Parliament already approved the objection. Now, after today's vote, the European Commission will need to reassess and redraft the proposal.
Today's vote sends an important message to the European Commission and the member states. We need to take the protection of bees seriously and according to the rigorous standards of science and the advancements in risk assessment methodologies. It has been six years of postponing the application of the EFSA Bee Guidance Document, which sets the most reliable standards for assessing the risk that pesticides pose to bees. To be coherent with the principle of basing public decisions on science and knowledge, the EU needs to apply the most reliable procedures available.
Several years ago, in need for improved risk assessment, EFSA paired with expert bee ecotoxicologists and called for public consultations. As a result, it published the guidelines for assessing the risks of plant protection products for bees in 2013. It remains to be the most effective methodology to date, which would allow us to analyse and interpret the toxicology and exposure data required by EU law. This methodology takes into account key findings such as the need to measure not only the impact of pesticides on individual bees but also the overall impact on the colony for social bee species and taking into account the effects to chronic exposure. Besides, it also recognises the multiple ways that bees may be exposed to pesticides in the field, including the spread through dust particles and water.
What is important now is that the Commission and member states interpret this vote as the need to apply EFSA's guidelines to their full extent.
BeeLife celebrates today's decision, with the hope that the adoption of EFSA's Bee Guidance document will be swift. The support MEPs gave today calls for it. With such a display of political will, there is an increasing chance that improved risk assessment will no longer be postponed due to conflicts with economic interests. (See document When Science and Biodiversity Meet Economic Interests).
The European Commission will now have to redraft its proposal. Hopefully, it will focus on the input from the EU's scientific body. Considering the significant commitments the EU has taken, such as established in the Pollinators Initiative, it now has an excellent opportunity to improve the protection of bees and pollinators in general.
After the vote on Monday, Oct 21, BugLife, BeeLife, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network Europe, Pollinis and Sum of Us sent Members of the European Parliament a letter asking them to support the objection to the draft by the European Commission.
NOTE TO EDITORS: BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination is an association formed by professionals of the beekeeping sector from different countries of the European Union. It works for the protection of bees, pollinators and biodiversity, based on the principle that 'bees serve as the canary in the gold mine, sounding the alarm that something is wrong in the environment'. BeeLife is currently a member of the Save the Bees Coalition, a registered stakeholder in the EU Bee Partnership, and a partner in the European-funded project, the Internet of Bees.