France at the Forefront of Saving Bee Colonies
02 Jun 2015
The French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, headed by Ségolène Royal, has launched a new program to protect bee colonies. This follows the – perhaps a little less decisive – plan unveiled last Tuesday by the United States. Let’s take a look at the strategies put in place.
Both provide for the restoration of areas where insects grow, such as parks and public gardens. In France, in particular, plans to regenerate green spaces alongside roads are also being considered, which would be cut less and left to flower for longer. This practice increases the variety of pollinators by around 30% and, according to the Ministry, “will be rolled out across 12,000 km of the national road network.”
However, Ms Royal isn’t stopping there and is resolutely pressing on in the battle against the use of neonicotinoids, the main cause of bee colony collapse. “It’s not just a matter of renewing the moratorium that expires in 2015, but extending it to other substances and uses.”
The moratorium currently in force in Europe – which, to recap, expires this year – bans 4 active ingredients, three of which are neonicotinoids, and regulates certain uses of neonicotinoids. Use of these banned pesticides is actually allowed on certain winter cereals. And that’s not all: thiacloprid and acetamiprid (both neonicotinoids) are not included in the moratorium.
That’s why the French Ministry of Ecology has decided not to wait for European legislation to catch up, and has called on the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (Anses) to “draw up new restrictions on the use” of neonicotinoids in France. Waiting for Europe is a waste of time… Owing to apathy (or a lack of willingness) on the part of the EU, a total ban doesn’t seem to be a possibility. “The European framework doesn’t allow for a comprehensive ban”, said Ms Royal to Le Figaro.
Ms Royal, however, is at least not content with bans alone and has also laid down financial measures to support those who choose clean agricultural methods that do not use neonicotinoids.
And the United States? Though they agree with the French that the time has come to take action, they are a little softer, let’s say, on pesticides. Just in April, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced a ban on the sale of new neonicotinoids. The new plan, announced with great pomp at the White House, is much less strict, as it considers that “pesticides play a critical role in agricultural production and the health of our society.” Almost like bees do “but with more electoral interests to protect them”, commented Silvia Bencivelli in Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
The population of pollinators, and above all bees, which are responsible for 80% of plant reproduction, has fallen dramatically in recent years: “The situation is catastrophic. The mortality rate of bees in France has reached 30% on average, and is as high as 60% in some areas,” according to Henri Clément, spokesman of the French National Union of Beekeepers. And in the United States? The rate is between 60% and 80%.
The decline of bee populations has dramatic implications for the food system: In terms of the most important monocrops, 39 out of 57 plant species rely on the precious function performed by pollinators, not to mention the vitally important role they play in the reproduction of the majority of the most evolved wild plant species.
Translated from original article written by Michela Marchi, Slow Food Italy
Sources: La Repubblica, Le Figaro, Le Monde and www.scientificast.it
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