On World Bee Day, beekeepers across Europe fear that member states will undermine the ban on bee-killing neonicotinoids by opening the door to similarly harmful pesticides. Slow Food Europe is part of a joint Europe-wide action to demand bee-friendly pesticide standards in Europe.
Around 75% of global food crops rely on animal pollination. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN), today’s species are facing extinction rates 100 to 1 000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. The introduction of pesticides has sent the equilibrium between agriculture and the bees into crisis, harming non-target species, leaving pesticide residue in the environment and the food chain even many years after their use. The recent FAO report on biodiversity has shown significant declines in the number of birds and insects, in particular bees and other pollinators, naming pesticides as one of the main drivers.
Slow Food Europe is concerned that, in the absence of strict European safety rules, many bee-killing pesticides will continue to be used, and more will come to the market, rendering the much-celebrated ban of three neonicotinoid pesticides in Europe last year redundant. Slow Food Europe is certain that to save the bees, the EU needs to outlaw all bee-killing pesticides, not just three of them.
Symbolically, on World Bee Day, representatives of EU Member States gather to discuss the implementation of toxicity assessment standards, known as the Bee Guidance Document, developed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2013. However, EFSA only fully applied the new rules in the assessment of three neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam), which were banned in the EU in 2018. Until today, EU national governments have failed to endorse the use of the 2013 Bee Guidance Document in all other pesticide decisions. The EU Ombudsman has recognized recently that the process of the Bee Guidance Document adoption “constitutes maladministration” as the Commission has refused to grant public access to the positions of Members States.
Slow Food Europe actively advocates for the full implementation of the Bee Guidance Document and is part of a joint coalition of civil society organizations asking decision-makers to save the bees and for greater transparency in the risk assessment process. On May 9, the most recent joint action took place in several European cities: beekeepers and environmental groups handed in a petition signed by over 230,000 Europeans to their national agriculture ministers in 7 European capitals asking to improve the way the EU tests all new pesticides. Slow Food’s local group of beekeepers and activists addressed these concerns to the Ministry of Agriculture in Rome and, ahead of the meeting in Brussels, asked the Italian government to effectively protect bees from harmful pesticides.
On World Bee Day, Slow Food has also launched an international “Slow Bees” action, aiming to rise in defense of pollinators and provide the greater resonance, outreach, and visibility to the threats bees and other pollinators, plants and biodiversity face today. The worldwide mobilization to act will be launched online, using hashtags #onetreeforahive #plantoneforpollinators #slowtreesforbees.
Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe