EU Pollinator Week 2021 - The community is growing!
After a two-year absence, the European Bee and Pollination Week, otherwise known as "Bee Week", was enlarged in 2021 to include all pollinators in the first EU Pollinator Week. The event, focusing on the importance of pollinators for healthy ecosystems, our wellbeing, and culture, was held online on 27-30 September with the theme "A New Deal for Pollinators”.
The 2021 EU Pollinator Week was organised by Members of the European Parliament under the chairmanship of Martin Hojsík (Renew Europe, SK) and BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination, in partnership with the European Commission, the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). More than 1,100 participants and 56 speakers attended a number of debates and workshops which received strong high-level political support at European and National level.
“Ongoing and unprecedented biodiversity and climate crises, continuous overstepping of planetary boundaries. All these are legacies that no one from us, policy makers, may be leaving to young generations. A part of the change should be a New Deal for Pollinators, which builds on the ongoing activities, but goes much further at the same time...” - said chair Mr Hojsík, explaining the motivation for organising the Week.
EU Pollinator Week brought together all relevant stakeholders, including public authorities, non-governmental organisations, scientists, beekeepers, farmers, business organisations, and citizens. In its several conferences and workshops, participants discussed ideas and exchanged proposals to promote public policies and stakeholder actions that protect healthy populations of wild and managed pollinators, and the invaluable benefits they provide to society.
In the context of the European Green Deal, its flagship Biodiversity, Chemical and Farm to Fork strategies, the reformed EU Common Agricultural Policy, as well as the ongoing revision of the EU Pollinators Initiative, this year’s event included a rich programme that fostered debate and political support for the ambition of “A New Deal for Pollinators”, defining EU actions aimed at halting pollinator decline by 2030.
Following the variety of exchanges, the conclusions of the four days of events focused on identifying measures for the protection, restoration and monitoring of pollinator populations and their stressors. Participants agreed that Member States should join EU monitoring initiatives and embed into legislation the monitoring protocols developed by EU projects, and ensure financial and human resources for their long-term implementation. Furthermore, Member States were urged to improve the collection of relevant data (e.g. agricultural landscape, pesticide use, etc.) and facilitate their full use. Indeed, continuity and certainty were deemed critical for systematic collection of relevant data and high-quality datasets that will enable an adequate understanding of the problem and how to tackle it. Some stakeholders said that the restoration and protection of pollinators’ habitats will benefit not only wider biodiversity, but also society and economies as a whole.
Unsustainable agricultural practices, such as monocultures, habitat destruction and intensive fertiliser and pesticide use were identified as among the main causes for pollinator decline. For this reason, participants agreed that it was recommended that the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should encourage a reduction of the dependency on synthetic products, while incentivising the implementation of safe alternatives. In parallel, the discussions included views on how a diversification of melliferous and polliniferous species and landscape features must be encouraged. National Strategic Plans (NSPs) of the CAP are the tools to support the needed transition towards pollinator-friendly farming. Bee products can also help monitor the sustainability of the CAP.
Stakeholders participating in EU Pollinator Week broadly agreed that pollinators remain unprotected from the impacts of chemicals despite the provisions in EU legislation, and that the situation should be improved urgently and the precautionary principle applied. Furthermore, EFSA has provided key scientific findings, tools and assessment to be further developed and incorporated into policy making. One of the conclusions of Pollinator Week was that transparent decision-making is a cornerstone of the EU democratic processes. Citizens ought to be informed about the positions and decisions taken by their representatives and governments.
The beekeeping sector described how seriously impacted they are by climate change and the lack of floral resources. The increasing variation in the availability of resources for pollinators, including honey bees, reduce the production potential and increase their production costs, jeopardising the economic survival of beekeepers. Furthermore, the lack of transparency in the honey supply chain and imports from beyond the EU, and the lack of tools to detect and control fraud, make it impossible for EU beekeepers and consumers to differentiate high-quality local products, from products of uncertain quality. The situation leads to pressure in producer prices, putting beekeepers in a yet more difficult economic position. Immediate action is required in the validation of analytical tools, creation of a common base of honey reference and implementation of compulsory traceability rules mainly for imported honey. CAP NSPs can support the beekeeping sector, research that supports beekeeping activities and training.
Finally, the EU Pollinator Week included several sessions gathering initiatives devoted to research, citizens engagement and awareness raising. The participants described a lack of information on wild pollinators and pressures they face, which are key prerequisites for effective policy actions. There is also a missing interlink between knowledge, research projects and data available that enables to reveal the bigger picture regarding pollinator populations and the impact of their health stressors. Collaborative initiatives such as the EU Bee partnership prototype platform for data exchange aim at this objective. Finally, technology can bring new opportunities for citizens to participate in monitoring pollinators. A system needs to be made available to centralise and harmonise all these observations.
Based on these conclusions MEPs have adopted a number of pledges for pollinators. These pledges represent their commitment to act on both EU and national level for the benefit of pollinators and the beekeeping sector.
Francesco Panella, President of BeeLife, reflected on the outcome of the Week “The pollinator community is fortunately getting larger, with increasing resources dedicated to raise the awareness of the problems, but also with a great creative potential to find solutions to the situation. Now the challenge is to build up empathy among the actors and to cross-pollinate these initiatives and knowledge. Hopefully, we will soon have policy makers at different administrative levels creating the legal and policy framework to reverse the steady negative trends in pollinators and beekeeping production.”