Bees and beekeepers: MEPs set out EU-wide long-term survival strategy
- Ban all harmful pesticides
- Tighten up checks to halt fake honey imports
- Promote health benefits of honey
MEPs urge the EU and its member states to invest more in protecting bee health, fighting honey adulteration and supporting beekeepers.
The EU needs a wide-ranging, long-term strategy to improve bee health and rebuild the bee population, says Parliament in a resolution passed by 560 votes to 27 with 28 abstentions on Thursday. To this end, MEPs call for:
- an EU-level action plan to combat bee mortality,
- breeding programmes to boost resilience to invasive species such as Varroa destructor, the Asian hornet or the American foulbrood,
- more research to develop innovative bee drugs and increase their availability,
- a ban on all pesticides with scientifically proven negative effects on bee health, including neonicotinoids, and safe alternatives for farmers, and
- advanced warning of crop spraying periods to avoid harming bees.
Boost support for beekeepers and promote bee products
The EU should increase the budget for national beekeeping programmes by 50% and set up a specific support scheme for beekeepers in the EU’s post-2020 farming policy, MEPs say. They also suggest compensation for loss of bee colonies.
EU states should do more to inform the public, and especially children, of the benefits of eating honey and the therapeutic uses of bee products, MEPs say.
Halting fake honey imports
To ensure that imported honey meets high EU standards, border inspections and single market checks should be harmonised, all imported honey tested and traceability requirements tightened, MEPs say. They also want the EU Commission to develop more effective laboratory testing procedures and call on member states to impose harsher penalties for offenders.
Honey and bee products should be considered “sensitive” in trade talks with non-EU countries or be even completely excluded from negotiations, the resolution adds.
“We must do our utmost to protect our honey and bees as 76 % of food production in Europe relies on pollination and so bees are indispensable for our food security”, said rapporteur Norbert Erdős (EPP, HU).
“The Parliament has today proposed a survival strategy for our bees and beekeepers and a plan to increase transparency for our consumers by replacing the current misleading and therefore unacceptable label "Blend of EU and non-EU honeys" with a clear indication of countries that the honeys come from - including the percentages of different honeys used in the final product”, he explained.
Now it is time for the EU Commission and national governments to put our proposals in place so that our bees and beekeepers can thrive again”, he added.
Some 600,000 EU beekeepers produce about 250,000 tonnes of honey per year, making the EU the world’s second biggest producer after China. The biggest EU producers in 2016 were Romania, Spain and Hungary, followed by Germany, Italy and Greece.
The EU imports about 200,000 tonnes of honey, mainly from China, Ukraine, Argentina and Mexico. Tests done by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre showed that 20% of samples taken at EU’s external borders or importers’ premises did not respect EU standards.