Starting from today until May 26, European citizens will decide on their future representatives to the European Parliament for a mandate of five years. Your vote will be decisive in shaping the future of Europe. Members of the European Parliament will have to decide on the future of agriculture and the protection of different beings in the environment, including bees, pollinators in general and wildlife. Here, we tell you why citizens have an important role to play.
The European Parliament is the only European institution for which you directly choose your representatives, and its legislative work is an essential component of democracy in Europe. The parliament has 20 committees of which different parliamentarians are members. With diverse subjects that range from foreign affairs to women's rights and gender equality, their work is decisive on the laws that will rule public action and that bind domestic policy. How does this affect bees and the environment?
Among the committees, we can also find the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI). And, in 2018, the parliament created a new Committee on EU authorisation procedure for pesticides (PEST). These three "COMs" have had and will have a decisive influence on the current and future state of environmental conditions for bees and, consequently, for all living beings, including ourselves.
The AGRI Committee, for example, is continuously debating on which agricultural model to apply in European fields. Belgian Member of the European Parliament in the last term, Bart Staes, provides us with an insight on negotiations of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which frames the functioning of agriculture and subventions to farmers. Staes insists that the latest text, to be either taken to plenary or dismissed by the next parliament, continues to point towards "the same direction, not into another kind of agriculture which should be agroecology. Instead, it maintains intensive farming, a type of agriculture based on exporting foods, without enough measures for a more just distribution of funds for agriculture".
Whether you agree or disagree with the need to change how we spend public money on agriculture (which takes around 40% of the total EU budget), is up to you. However, it is clear that whomever you choose will contribute in making these decisions that directly affect our food and our fields.
The way we decide to produce our food directly affects the health of bees, pollinators in general and biodiversity. These include farm management with crucial decisions such as promoting monoculture irrigated maize or supporting crop rotation with long cycles, preventive use and intensive or non-pesticide use.
The work of the PEST Committee in the European Parliament has been crucial in lifting the veil on "opaque" procedures related to marketing authorizations for active substances. Faced with the challenges posed by well-known issues such as glyphosate and a new class of pesticides to replace bee-harming neonicotinoids, the work of the Commission is essential to establish (or not) a proper risk assessment process for pesticides. Our future European legislators will be responsible for the rules that can create safer conditions for our bees and pollinators.
Recognising the importance of these elections, president of BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination, Francesco Panella, invites "all citizens, all honey lovers, to vote consciously. These elections, we can tell our parliament that we want a world filled with flowers, filled with bees, pollinators, butterflies, dragonflies, where life flourishes and is not threatened by a type of agriculture that heavily relies on pesticides."
We have the chance to improve conditions for bees and ourselves. During these elections for the European Parliament, you will be shaping the future. Hopefully, it will be one where flowers and bees thrive, with ever-improving environmental conditions.