The IPol-ERA project has officially started

Updated: Oct 3

Pesticides can only be authorised in the EU if they do not harm human and animal health and do not cause unacceptable environmental effects. The worrying trends in insect pollinators observed in the last 30 years, the importance of pollination for biodiversity and food security and the evolution of pesticide risk assessment since 2012 reveals that the work needs to improve not just on the evaluation of pesticide risk on bees, but also on other pollinating insect species such as flies, butterflies, moths or beetles.


For this reason, a new project called IPol-ERA was launched in September 2022 to contribute to the advancement of the environmental risk assessment (ERA) of pesticides for insect pollinators, address current risk assessment challenges and ensure preparedness for future developments and inclusion in official procedures of authorisation. IPol-ERA is financed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and counts on the collaboration of 7 partners from 6 countries: the University of Bologna (Italy), Institute of Nature Conservation of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland), University of Coimbra, Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (Portugal), Lund University (Sweden), BeeLife (Belgium) and is coordinated by the Aarhus University (Denmark).


IPol-ERA will run for 10 months and develop a roadmap to guide the transition process from a single active ingredient, single-use ERA, to a systems approach ERA for insect pollinators. Today, each pesticide active ingredient is assessed per crop and use (e.g. treatment of cereals as seed treatments, or apple orchards in spray application), without considering its context (e.g. the landscape in which the crop is located, the weather, etc.). The future RA will aim to shift the approach towards a more holistic and contextualised one, considering many other relevant insects and parameters of real life.


To develop the roadmap, social sciences will be used to ensure stakeholder engagement, issue scoping and create a targeted consensus for the main directions. Social scientists will collaborate with ecologists, ecotoxicologists and biologists, merging the ecological needs of insect pollinators with regulatory and methodological needs. BeeLife will contribute to the social sciences and regulatory analyses, and develop the communication strategy to achieve the needed shift in the future.


BeeLife has been an actor in improving ERA since its constitution in 2013 and even before (2008), through the publication of technical reports, revealing conflicts of interest, participation in consultations, working groups and projects. Indeed, beekeepers facing massive colony losses since the 90s were among the first to point out that inadequate and insufficient RA was the reason behind harmful pesticides like neonicotinoids. As a result, dangerous products were authorised and used widely by farmers.


Let’s hope that this roadmap contributes to restoring nature and biodiversity in Europe.