Maximize EU pollinator protection: Minimize risk
Bees and other pollinators play vital roles in biodiversity and food security, and they are a source of income and inspiration. Yet, bees’ biodiversity and abundance are decreasing every day. Their decline, driven by pesticides (1–4), poses serious threats to the environment, ecosystems, and human health. The European pesticide authorization framework states that a pesticide can only be put on the market if it has no harmful effects on human health or animal health and no unacceptable effects on the environment (5). EU ministries met in June to decide what constitutes an “acceptable” effect of a pesticide on bees (6). Despite scientific evidence indicating that the current level of protection is barely adequate, they tentatively agreed to provide even less protection moving forward(6). We call on EU governments to apply the maximum level of protection of pollinators from pesticides.
In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority, at the request of EU Member State governments, set a maximum acceptable level of 7% reduction on colony size (i.e., number of bees per colony) (7). Many beekeepers, environmentalists, and scientists have argued that scientific evidence shows that 7% is already too high (the only truly acceptable level would be 0%) (8). Evidence also shows that wild pollinator species are more vulnerable than honey bees to pesticides (9) and continue to rapidly decline (10–12). Disregarding the abundant evidence and the consensus of scientists, the EU ministries agreed to raise the acceptable maximum from 7 to 10% (6).
The impact of pesticides on pollinators is vast, clear, and increasingly well documented. The EU ministries must act responsibly and make the rigorous decisions that will protect biodiversity by basing their regulatory requirements on scientific evidence. They must not accept any negative impact on honey bee colonies or other pollinators due to pesticide exposure. EU ministries should never lower the level of protection for bees. Doing so puts future generations at risk of living in a world without pollinators.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
1. E. M. Peterson, F. B. Green, P. N. Smith, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. 208, 111681 (2021).
2. H. Jactel et al., Comptes Rendus. Biologies. 343, 267–293 (2021).
3. J. M. Iwasaki, K. Hogendoorn, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 314, 107423 (2021).
4. L. Drivdal, J. P. van der Sluijs, Current Opinion in Insect Science. 46, 95–105 (2021).
5. E. European Parliament, Council of the European Union, Official Journal of the European Union. L309, 1–50 (2009).
6. “Bees still at risk as EU Member States deem significant losses acceptable,” BeeLife (2021); www.bee-life.eu/post/bees-still-at-risk-as-eu-member-states-deem-significant-losses-acceptable.
7. EFSA, EFSA J. 10, 2668 (2012).
8. “Beekeeping organisations and civil society concerns on pesticide risk assessment methodology and bees’ protection from pesticides,” BeeLife (2021); www.bee-life.eu/post/civil-society-urges-the-european-council-to-secure-highest-protection-of-bees-and-pollinators).
9. M. Arena, F. Sgolastra, Ecotoxicology 23, 324–334 (2014).
10. E. E. Zattara, M. A. Aizen, One Earth 4, 114 (2021).
11. C. A. Hallmann et al., PLOS ONE 12,, e0185809 (2017).
12. A. Nieto et al., “European red list of bees” (Luxembourg, Publication Office of the European Union, 2014).
Noa Simon-Delso, BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination, Louvain la Neuve, Belgium.
Alexandre Aebi, Laboratoire de Biodiversité du Sol, Instituts de Biologie et d’Ethnologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Gerard Arnold, Laboratoire Evolution, Génomes, Comportement, Ecologie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
Jean Marc Bonmatin, Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, CNRS, 45071 Orléans, France.
Fani Hatjina, Institute of Animal Science, Department of Apiculture, ELGO DIMITRA, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Piotr Medrzycki, 6Council for Agricultural Research and Economics, Agriculture and Environment Research Centre, Bologna, Italy.
Fabio Sgolastra, Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Agro-Alimentari, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, Bologna, Italy.