On July 16 and 17, a standing committee meeting on phytopharmaceutical products has gathered in Brussels to decide on the future of the so-called EFSA Bee Guidance Document, which is intended to protect honeybees, bumblebees and wild bees against the toxicity of pesticides.
Leaked documents obtained by Pesticide Action Network – PAN Europe, indicate that a majority of Member States is converging to reform the Bee Guidance Document in a way that lowers protection standards, following the pesticide industry’s lobbying efforts.
Slow Food Europe believes that this new step towards the burial of efficient measures to protect bees in Europe contradicts the Commission’s efforts to reduce the usage of pesticides by 50% by 2030, as indicated in the new Biodiversity Strategy.
“The new Biodiversity Strategy, published earlier this year, aims to protect and restore biodiversity. However, along with other NGOs and beekeeper organizations, we are concerned that the meeting held in Brussels, might be an occasion to jeopardize the efforts to upscale the protection of bees against toxic agrochemicals. We call on the EU Commission and decision-makers not to undermine the efforts, targets and goals indicated in the Biodiversity Strategy, ” says Marta Messa, director of Slow Food’s Europe.
According to leaked information, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has given Member States four options to decide on the future of the Bee Guidance Document. Regrettably, all four options open the door to watering down the Bee Guidance Document.
One of the four options is to use a mathematical model to define the ‘acceptable’ level of increase in bee mortality due to pesticides. This model was pushed by the European Crop Protection Association, which claims that a 20% mortality of forager bees is acceptable. According to PAN Europe’s information, at least 15 Member States support such an approach.
While environmental NGOs and beekeepers’ associations were consulted on some aspects of the revision of the Bee Guidance Document, they were however not made aware of these four options.
Last week, a new report by the European Court of Auditors, meant to assess the results of the Commissions’ efforts to protect pollinators, found once again that such efforts not only have not delivered but have also not borne fruit.
According to the Auditors, the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 “was largely ineffective in preventing their decline, while key EU policies, among which the Common Agricultural Policy, “do not include specific requirements for the protection of wild pollinators.”
Having long been wary of the lack of concrete actions on the Commission’s side to improve the state of protection of pollinators, as well as to help farmers become independent from the agrochemical industry, in 2019 PAN Europe co-initiated the Save Bees and Farmers European Citizens Initiative, which Slow Food Europe is part of. The initiative aims at collecting 1 million signatures across the EU to demand that the Commission set forth legal acts to phase out synthetic pesticides over the next 15 years, restore biodiversity on farmland and support farmers in the transition towards agroecology.
The initiative has collected over 420,000 signatures up to now and will run until 30 March 2021.