EU Member States throw sand into the wheels of transparency and meeting pesticide reduction targets

Updated: Feb 18

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Brussels, 2 February 2022


European Member States are weakening the possibilities to get any insight in the future data on pesticide use. In a context of insect populations continuing their collapse and beekeepers experiencing high colony mortalities, the EU countries, especially 10, are working to reduce any chances to evaluate the Green Deal targets and for citizens to know if agricultural chemicals are involved in this biodiversity decline.


It is well established that pesticide use challenges pollinators and biodiversity. The EU committed to halt and reverse their decline (Biodiversity Strategy, EU Pollinator Initiative) and yet there is no regularly updated data on pesticide use, nor there is on other problematic agricultural chemicals such as biocides or veterinary products[1]. Currently, there is no public information about which pesticides are used where, in which quantities, and how, even though farmers already keep records with this information (frequently in a digital form). Having this data is the basis for the implementation of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies (central pillars of the European Green Deal), as the countries are supposed to monitor the indicators of sustainability.


For the beekeeping sector this information is crucial, as beekeepers need to know the risks their bees are exposed to. Furthermore, scientists, health authorities, and environmentalists want to know the level of pesticide load and if the current insectagedon is linked to the pesticide use.


In the latest seminar organised by ClientEarth, PAN-Europe and BeeLife[2] it was clear the Council is putting more obstacles in the race towards gathering pesticide use data, against the Commission and the European Parliament, who preserved and improved the key elements of the Commission’s proposal. Indeed, today ClientEarth analysed the Council’s amendments to the Commission proposal on the “Statistics on Agricultural Input and Output” (SAIO) and highlighted the different ways in which Member States are destroying any possibilities to achieve future pesticide use data[3]. Based on additional insights gathered by PAN-Europe and Global2000, it would be 10 countries mainly contributing to this watering down: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain[4].


The Commission’s proposal is not asking for additional work or further obligations from farmers. Farmers have been keeping records on pesticide use as a legal obligation since 2011. The problem lies at the national level, the Member States avoid making this data publicly available or sharing it with EUROSTAT.

To make the data on agricultural chemicals meaningful and useful, it needs to be communicated annually and at the lowest possible geographical precision (ideally postal code level, to avoid running into privacy problems). These are the requests that NGOs have been doing[5], and some of the proposals the Commission text already envisaged.


Noa Simón Delso, Scientific Director of BeeLife added "It is unfortunate that the Commission's good intentions are blocked by the EU countries. Without good pesticide, biocide and veterinary medicines use data, we will never be able to understand the chemical pressure on bees and pollinators. Beekeepers and scientists will continue to work blindly. In the era of data and digitalisation, the national reluctance to improve the situation is frustrating and outdated."


The first trilogue meeting on the legislative proposal of the SAIO will take place tomorrow, on the 3rd of February. BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination calls Member States and the French Presidency of the EU (leading the SAIO trilogues on behalf of the Council) to stop throwing sand under the wheel of transparency in agro-chemicals use data, embrace the digital era and respect the citizens' rights to know about the quality of their environment.


References:

[1] The threat of veterinary medicinal products and biocides on pollinators: A One Health perspective

[2] Why improving the data on pesticides use is key to delivering the farm to fork strategy

[3] Time to fill the data gap on the use of pesticides

[4] Taking aim with a blindfold on

[5] Open letter: Ending blind spots on agro-chemicals



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Contact: Kata Gócs, comms@bee-life.eu

NOTE TO EDITORS:

BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination is an NGO initially formed by professionals of the beekeeping sector from different countries of the European Union. BeeLife works for the protection of pollinators in Europe, highlighting their value for nature and people. With over 20 members (beekeeping and farming associations) from 11 different European countries, BeeLife links policy, science and field observations to promote a more sustainable future for pollinators and their role in ecosystems.