Procedure : 2011/2108(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0359/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0359/2011

Debates :

PV 14/11/2011 - 21
CRE 14/11/2011 - 21

Votes :

PV 15/11/2011 - 7.17
CRE 15/11/2011 - 7.17
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0493

REPORT     
PDF 264kWORD 155k
25 October 2011
PE 467.076v03-00 A7-0359/2011

on honeybee health and the challenges of the beekeeping sector

(2011/2108(INI))

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development

Rapporteur: Csaba Sándor Tabajdi

AMENDMENTS
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on honeybee health and the challenges of the beekeeping sector

(2011/2108(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2010 on the situation in the beekeeping sector(1),

–   having regard to the Communication of the Commission of 6 December 2010 on honeybee health (COM(2010)0714),

–   having regard to the Conclusions of the Council of 17 May 2011 on honeybee health,

–   having regard to the Communication of the Commission of 3 May 2011 ‘Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020’ (COM(2011)0244),

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 of 22 October 2007 establishing a common organisation of agricultural markets and on specific provisions for certain agricultural products (Single CMO Regulation)(2), which lays out special provisions for the apiculture sector in the European Union,

–   having regard to the EFSA scientific report of 11 August 2008 and the scientific report commissioned and adopted by EFSA on 3 December 2009 on Bee Mortality and Bee Surveillance in Europe,

–   having regard to the ruling of the European Court of Justice on case C-442/09(3), concerning the labelling of honey containing genetically modified material,

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and repealing Council Directives 79/117/EEC and 91/414/EEC(4),

–   having regard to Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides(5),

–   having regard to its resolution of 8 March 2011 on the ‘EU protein deficit: what solution for a long standing problem?’(6),

–   having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A7-0359/2011),

A. whereas beekeeping as an economic and social activity plays a crucial role in the sustainable development of rural areas, creates jobs and provides an important ecosystem service via pollination, which contributes to the improvement of biodiversity by maintaining the genetic diversity of plants,

B.  whereas beekeeping and biodiversity are mutually dependent; whereas, via pollination, bee colonies provide important environmental, economic and social public goods, thus ensuring food security and maintaining biodiversity, and whereas, by managing their bee colonies, beekeepers perform an environmental service of paramount importance, as well as safeguarding a sustainable production model in rural areas; whereas ‘bee pastures’, diverse foraging grounds and certain crops (rape, sunflowers, etc.) provide bees with the rich nutrition necessary in order to maintain their immune defences and stay healthy,

C. whereas concerns have been raised that owing to the high cost of establishing a beekeeping enterprise, there are fewer people entering the sector, resulting in a shortfall in the hives needed to pollinate vital agricultural crops,

D. whereas a decrease in the number of bee colonies has been reported in both the EU and other parts of the world; whereas pollinator species, which contribute to agricultural productivity, are in decline; whereas, in the event of a marked intensification of this trend, farmers in the EU, as well as those in other parts of the world, may have to resort to human-assisted pollination, which would entail a twofold increase in expenditure on pollination; whereas science and veterinary practice currently provide little in the way of effective prevention or disease control against certain pests and diseases, owing to insufficient research and development of new bee-health medicines in the past decades, which is the result of the limited size of the market and the consequent low interest of big pharmaceutical companies; whereas the limited number of medicines available to fight the Varroa destructor mite are in many cases no longer effective,

E.  whereas the health of individual bees and colonies is affected by numerous lethal and sub-lethal factors, many of them interconnected; whereas the limited number of marketed medicines to fight the Varroa destructor mite are in many cases no longer sufficiently efficient, owing to the emergence of resistance; whereas the use of pesticides, changing climatic and environmental conditions, loss of plant biodiversity, land use change, mismanaged beekeeping practices and the presence of invasive species may weaken colonies’ immune systems and favour opportunistic pathologies; whereas honeybees can be exposed to plant protection products via direct and indirect pathways such as wind drifting, surface water, droplet guttation, nectar and pollen,

F.  whereas beekeepers can contribute to, and help maintain, the health and well-being of their bees, although the quality of their environment plays a large role in determining how successful they are.

G. whereas minimal use of veterinary products and active substances is advocated, as is maintaining a healthy colony immune system, but whereas resistance problems exist; whereas active substances and medicines are not metabolised by bees, and European producers rely on clean, residue-free, high-quality honey,

H. whereas a large number of European beekeepers are amateur and not professional apiarists,

Research and dissemination of scientific knowledge

1.  Calls on the Commission to increase the level of support for honeybee-health-related research under the next financial framework (FP8) and to focus the research on technological developments and disease prevention and control, particularly on the impact of environmental factors on the bee colony immune system and their interactions with pathologies, on defining sustainable agricultural practices, on promoting non-chemical alternatives (i.e. preventative agronomic practices such as crop rotation and use of biological control) and on generally further encouraging Integrated Pest Management techniques and the development of veterinary medical products for current EU honeybee-disease-causing agents, especially the Varroa destructor mite, as it is the main pathogenic agent and requires a greater variety of active substances to combat it, given its great ability to develop resistance and to combat endoparasites and other opportunistic diseases;

2.  Considers it important to take urgent measures to protect bee health, taking into account the specificities of beekeeping, the diversity of actors involved and the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity;

3.  Reiterates concerns that increased mortality among honeybees and wild pollinators in Europe would, if left unchecked, have a profound negative impact on agriculture, food production and security, biodiversity, environmental sustainability and ecosystems;

4.  Calls on the Commission to promote the setting up of appropriate national surveillance systems in close cooperation with beekeepers’ associations and to develop harmonised standards at EU level to allow comparison; stresses the need for uniform identification and registration of bee hives at national level, with annual revision and updating; insists that the funding for identification and registration should not come from the existing programmes for the improvement of production and marketing of honey in the European Union (Regulation (EC) No 1221/97);

5.  Calls on the European Commission to support a European Network of ‘reference hives’ to monitor the effect of environmental conditions, beekeeping practices and agricultural practices on bee health;

6.  Calls on the Commission to draw up three-year programmes based on a declaration by all Member States of the number of hives actually registered rather than on estimated figures;

7.  Welcomes the establishment of the EU reference laboratory for bee health, which should focus on activities not covered by existing expert networks or national laboratories, and synthesise the integrated knowledge stemming from their research;

8.  Stresses the need to support diagnostic laboratories and field tests at a national level and points out that overlaps in funding should be avoided;

9.  Calls on the Commission to set up a steering committee, together with representatives of the beekeeping sector, which will assist the Commission in establishing the annual work programme of the EU reference laboratory; deplores the fact that the first annual work programme of the EU’s reference laboratory was presented without prior consultation of stakeholders;

10. Calls on the Commission to continue supporting scientific research on honeybee health, building on the good examples of COST Action COLOSS and the BeeDoc and STEP initiatives, and to encourage Member States to support scientific research in this area; stresses nevertheless that relations with beekeepers and beekeeper organisations should be enhanced;

11. Calls on the Commission to rule out overlaps in the use of funds in order to increase their effectiveness in guaranteeing economic and ecological added value for both bee-keepers and farmers; calls on the Commission to encourage Member States to raise their level of funding for research;

12. Calls on the Member States to encourage and oversee the setting up of national melliferous plant phenology monitoring networks;

13. Calls on the Commission actively to encourage a greater degree of information-sharing among Member States, laboratories, beekeepers, farmers, industry and scientists, on ecotoxicological studies affecting honeybee health so as to make possible informed, independent scientific scrutiny; calls on the Commission to help this process by making available its relevant webpage in all official languages of the Member States concerned;

14. Welcomes the Commission’s ‘Better Training for Safer Food’ initiative, but calls for the exercise to be extended beyond 2011 and the number of participants from national authorities to be increased;

15. Calls for support for training programmes for beekeepers on disease prevention and control, as well as for farmers and foresters on botanical knowledge, bee-friendly use of plant protection products, the impact of pesticides and non-chemical agronomic practices to prevent weeds; calls on the Commission, in cooperation with beekeeping organisations, to submit guidelines for the veterinary treatment of hives;

16. Calls on the authorities and representative organisations in the Member States to support the dissemination of appropriate scientific and technical knowledge about bee health among beekeepers; underlines the fact that a permanent dialogue is needed between beekeepers, farmers and the relevant authorities;

17. Stresses the need to ensure adequate training for veterinarians, as well as the possibility for beekeepers to consult veterinarians and the involvement of apiculture specialists in national veterinary authorities;

Veterinary products

18. Recognises that the development of innovative and effective treatments against Varroa mites, which are implicated in some 10 % of annual losses, is of high importance; considers that there is a need to increase support for authorised veterinary treatments in order to reduce the negative effects of diseases and pests; asks the Commission to introduce common guidelines regarding veterinary treatment in the sector, stressing the need for it to be properly used; calls for guidelines to be introduced for the use of molecules and/or formulations with a base of organic acids and essential oils and other substances authorised for biological pest control;

19. Calls on the Member States to provide financial support for the research, development and field-testing of new bee-health medicinal products, especially for SMEs, in light of the beekeeping sector’s contribution to biodiversity and the public good in the form of pollination, taking into consideration the high cost of veterinary treatment currently borne by beekeepers by comparison with health costs in other livestock sectors;

20. Highlights the need to offer the pharmaceutical industry incentives for the development of new medicinal products designed to combat bee diseases;

21. Calls on the Commission to work out more flexible rules for the authorisation and availability of veterinary products for honeybees, including medicines of natural origin and others that do not have health effects on insects; welcomes the Commission’s proposal on the revision of the veterinary medicinal product directive, but notes that the current limited availability of such products should not be used as a basis for the registration/marketing of antibiotics to treat other opportunistic pathologies in honeybee colonies, given their impacts on the quality of bee products and resistance;

22. Welcomes the Commission’s intention to introduce maximum residue levels for the use of medicinal products through the ‘cascade’ procedure in order to eliminate the current legal uncertainty, which hinders the treatment of sick bees;

23. Calls for a change in the regulatory environment so that the European Medicines Agency, in a spirit of protecting intellectual rights, can ensure exclusivity for the manufacturing and marketing of novel active substances in innovative bee-health veterinary products during a certain transitional period;

24. Calls on the Commission to look into the possibility of extending cover under the European Union Veterinary Fund to bee diseases when the fund is next revised;

25. Welcomes the Commission’s intention to propose a comprehensive Animal Health Law; calls on the Commission to adjust the scope and financing of European veterinary policy to take account of the specific characteristics of bees and beekeeping so that bee diseases can be combated more effectively via adequate availability of effective, standardised medicines in all Member States and financing of bee health in the framework of the European veterinary policy; calls on the Commission to ensure greater harmonisation among the Member States, focusing its efforts on combating and controlling varroasis in the EU;

26. Supports breeding programmes which concentrate on disease and pest tolerance, especially with reference to varroasis;

Effects of modern agriculture on bees

27. Emphasises that the European Union has only recently, with the committed involvement of the European Parliament, adopted new, stricter rules on the authorisation of plant protection products and their sustainable use, in order to ensure that they are safe for human beings and the environment; notes that these rules include additional, strict criteria relating to bee safety; calls on the Commission to keep Parliament informed about the successful implementation of the new rules;

28. Invites the Commission to improve risk assessment methodology for pesticides in order to protect colony health and population development and to ensure appropriate access to the findings and methodology of ecotoxicological studies included in the authorisation dossiers;

29. Stresses the importance of sustainable farming and calls on the Member States to transpose and fully implement, as soon as possible, Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides, and particularly Article 14 thereof, which highlights the fact that it will be mandatory for all farmers in the EU to apply integrated pest management as of 2014, and to pay particular attention to the use of those pesticides that may have an adverse effect on bees and colony health;

30. Calls on the Commission, on the basis of reliable and effective tests under real conditions, with harmonised protocols, to consider chronic larval and sub-lethal toxicity in the risk assessment of pesticides, as laid down in Regulation 1107/2009 EC on the placing on the market of plant protection products, which has been in application since 14 June 2011; calls further on the Commission to pay special attention to the use of specific pesticides that have had an adverse effect on bee and colony health under certain circumstances; calls on the Commission also to strengthen research on potential substance-pathogen and substance-substance interactions; notes that all application methods should also be considered;

31. Welcomes the fact that experts from the European Food Safety Authority are carrying out an independent assessment of the requirements placed on the industry as regards supplying data on the various pesticides;

32. Calls, in a spirit of dialogue between beekeepers, agricultural stakeholders and public authorities, for the setting up of a system to encourage preliminary notification of beekeepers in all Member States in advance of pesticide applications, especially aerial insecticidal treatment operations (e.g. mosquito controls), and a system to provide on request information about the position of hives when these operations take place; calls, further, for improved information transfer via an internet-based database between beekeepers and farmers as regards the setting up of hives in the vicinity of fields, for example;

33. Calls on the Member States to consider the advisability of making beekeeping and bee health part of agricultural training;

34. With special regard to the 2009 EFSA project entitled ‘Bee Mortality and Bee Surveillance in Europe’, calls on the Commission to conduct objective research on the possible negative effects of GMO crops and monocultures on honeybee health;

Production and food safety aspects, protection of origin

35. Calls on the Commission constantly to monitor the animal health situation in source countries, to apply the strictest animal health requirements and to put in place an appropriate monitoring system for the propagation material coming from third countries, in order to avoid introducing exotic bee diseases/parasites such as Aethina tumida beetles and Tropilaelaps mites into the EU; calls on the Commission and Member States, in cooperation with beekeeping organisations, to increase transparency regarding the frequency, percentage, characteristics and, above all, the results of the security checks performed at border control posts;

36. Calls for a provisional threshold limit (Reference Point for Action) of 10 ppb to be set for veterinary products authorised in the European Union, in view of the different analytical methods that are applied in the various Member States;

37. Calls on the Commission to include No Action Levels (NALs) or Reference Points for Action (RPAs) or Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in honey and other apicultural products for substances that cannot be authorised for the European beekeeping sector, as well as to harmonise veterinary border controls and controls on the internal market since, in the case of honey, low-quality imports, adulteration and substitutes distort the market and exert constant pressure on prices and the final quality of the product on the EU’s internal market, and there must be a level playing field for products/producers from the EU and from third countries; notes that the MRLs must take into account residues from good veterinary practice;

38. Calls on the Commission to put in place or modify the annexes to Directive 2001/110/EC (Honey Directive) in order to improve the standards of EU production by establishing clear legal definitions for all apicultural products, including honey varieties, and defining the important parameters of the quality of honey, such as proline and saccharase content, low level of HMF or humidity, and adulteration (such as the glycerine content, sugar isotope ratio (C13/C14), pollen spectrum and aroma and sugar content of honey); calls for support for research into effective methods of detecting adulteration of honey; calls on the Commission to ensure that monitoring of the natural properties of honey which applies to European products also applies to products from third countries;

39. Calls on the Commission to harmonise rules on labelling with the provisions of the Regulation on Agricultural Quality Schemes and to introduce obligatory labelling with the country of origin for imported and EU-produced apicultural products or, in the case of mixtures of products with different origins, obligatory labelling with every country of origin;

40. In the spirit of the EU’s new quality policy, calls on beekeepers, their representative organisations and commercial companies to make better use of the EU origin labelling schemes (PDO and PGI) for hive products, which could contribute to the affordability of apicultural activity, and calls on the Commission, in close cooperation with beekeeping associations, to propose quality denominations and promote the direct sale of beekeeping products on local markets;

41. Calls for action to boost consumption of European honey and apiculture products, including by promoting honeys with characteristics specific to certain varieties and geographical areas;

Measures in connection with the conservation of biodiversity and the forthcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy

42. Stresses the need for consultation with beekeepers by European and national authorities during the drawing up of apiculture programmes and of related legislation, in order to ensure the effectiveness of these programmes and their timely implementation; calls on the Commission to provide significantly more financial resources, by stepping up the current support for apiculture in the CAP after 2013 and guaranteeing the continued existence and improvement of the existing support programmes(Regulation (EC) No 1221/97) for the beekeeping sector, and to encourage the development of joint projects, and on the Member States to provide technical assistance for the beekeeping sector; calls on the Commission to ensure that the system of co-financing is compatible with the establishment of direct aid under the first pillar of the CAP (optional implementation of the current Article 68 of the CAP) by those states that consider it necessary; stresses also the need to encourage young beekeepers to enter the sector; calls on the Commission to provide a safety net or a common insurance system for apiculture in order to mitigate the impact of crisis situations on beekeepers;

43. Urges the Commission, within the framework of the EU’s new biodiversity strategy, to make financial resources available for apiculture as a priority and/or at a higher rate in all projects and actions submitted under the CAP dealing exclusively with subspecies and eco-types of Apis mellifera native to each region;

44. Calls on the Commission to clarify, in the forthcoming reform of the CAP, the support measures and aid to be assigned to the European beekeeping sector, taking account of the environmental and social public goods that honeybee colonies provide via pollination and of the environmental service performed by beekeepers in managing their bee colonies;

45. Notes that, according to the Commission report of 28 May 2010, the overall number of beekeepers in the EU has risen slightly in comparison with 2004; points out that, according to the report, this increase is solely attributable to the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, and that, without the beekeepers from those countries, there would have been a significant decrease in the number of beekeepers in the EU; views this as indicative of the gravity of the situation in the beekeeping sector in the EU and of the need to grant it assistance and to implement concrete measures to keep beekeepers in beekeeping;

46. Calls on the Commission to consider the possibility of creating a special scheme for assistance to beekeepers within the framework of the direct aid scheme, for example through bee colony payments, which will help safeguard the beekeeping sector in the EU, keep beekeepers in beekeeping, encourage young people to become beekeepers and ensure bees continue to act as pollinators;

47. Calls on the Commission to promote sustainable agricultural practices in the CAP, to encourage all farmers to employ simple agronomic practices in line with Directive 2009/128/EC and to strengthen agri-environmental measures specific to the beekeeping sector, in the spirit of the new EU Biodiversity Strategy; calls on the Member States to lay down agri-environmental measures geared to apiculture in their rural development programmes and to encourage farmers to engage in agri-environmental measures supporting ‘bee-friendly’ grasslands on field margins and to employ an advanced level of integrated production, taking a holistic approach to farming and using biological control where possible;

48. Reaffirms that the Commission considers honeybees to be a domesticated species, and therefore a livestock sector, which facilitates better health, welfare and protection6 measures(7) and makes for better information on conserving wild pollinators; calls, therefore, for a bee health protection strategy to be established and for the beekeeping sector to be incorporated into agricultural legislation and veterinary legislation taking account of its specific character, particularly with regard to compensation for beekeepers’ losses in their bee population;

49. Calls on all stakeholders in the beekeeping sector to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the current common agricultural policy and the upcoming reform thereof, which take proper account of producer organisations throughout the agricultural sector;

Conservation of bee biodiversity

50. Urges the Commission, within the framework of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 (Habitats Directive) to define the conservation status of the species Apis mellifera and, where appropriate, to include it in the Annexes to the Directive; calls on the Commission, given the urgent need to conserve the species Apis mellifera and the various subspecies that occur in the European Union, to look into the possibility of creating a specific programme or regulation within the Life+ financial instrument that will make it possible to establish a pan-European project to restore wild populations of this species;

51. Urges the Commission, within the framework of Council Directive 92/65/EEC of 13 July 1992, to ban, at least temporarily, the import from third countries of live bees and species of the genus Bombus sp. in order to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases, particularly given that there is no shortage of genetic resources for apiculture in the European Union, bearing in mind the main subspecies from which the breeds and varieties currently used in apiculture originated;

52. Recalls that measures to promote biodiversity are also vital in the non-farm sector; notes that green spaces along roads, verges of railway lines, forest cuttings for energy transmission networks and public and private gardens cover substantial areas where rational management methods can considerably increase pollen and nectar resources for bees and pollinating insects; considers that this development should be pursued in the context of harmonious land management, which in particular maintains road safety;

53. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0440.

(2)

OJ L 299, 16.11.2007, p. 1-149.

(3)

OJ C 24, 30.1.2010, p. 28.

(4)

OJ L 309, 24.11.2009, p. 1.

(5)

OJ L 309, 24.11.2009, p. 71.

(6)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0084.

(7)

Through initiatives such as the Animal Health Strategy for the EU (2007-2013), which helps provide a single and clear regulatory framework for animal health, improves coordination and the efficient use of resources by relevant European agencies, and emphasises the importance of maintaining and improving diagnostic capability.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The beekeeping sector is an integral part of European agriculture. It provides primary or additional income for more than 600.000 citizens of the European Union. It offers vital services for agriculture through pollination and contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity. It is estimated that 84% of the plant species and 76% of food production in Europe are dependent on pollination by bees, the economic value of which is much greater than the value of the honey produced and is estimated at € 15 billion per year in the EU. Apiculture also provides an important ecosystem service via pollination, which contributes to the improvement of biodiversity by maintaining the genetic diversity of plants and the maintenance of the ecological balance. In addition, beekeeping is part of the European agricultural heritage and of national traditions.

Beekeeping is unique compared to other animal husbandry sectors. It breeds insects, semi-wild animals which cannot be domesticated or directly controlled like other species. Beekeeping is based not on the individual animal, but on the entire functional colony, which consists of several thousand insects working together like cells in other organisms. Therefore scientific research and regulation must be directed at both the individual animal and the entire colony levels.

There are significant differences between member states’ apicultural features, such as the number and the qualification of beekeepers (amateur versus professional), hive-density or the beekeeping operation method (stationary or mobile apiaries, transhumance). Several member states have especially favourable environmental and agricultural conditions for apiculture, such as France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. Due to higher hive density and number of professional beekeeper these countries are often referred to as the ‘professional beekeeper member states’. Decreasing the knowledge gap between professional and amateur beekeepers and improving the spread of information and scientific knowledge among them with effective training is of great importance.

The exact reasons of the recent increases in bee mortality are still unclear. There are several obstacles stalling the development of novel bee-health product. The market of such products is relatively small compared to the other livestock sectors, and the return on investments is low. Therefore producers of veterinary products are not interested in the development of new bee-health medicines. Moreover, the current regulation of the MRL system does not ensure the proper protection of intellectual property rights, discouraging innovative producers from the development. The Commission should deal with this problem in a balanced new regulation. Besides developing new medicines prevention measures should be further examined, bee-breeding programmes and gene conservation concentrating on disease and pest tolerance should be supported on national level.

One of the main barriers of effective action against excessive bee mortality is the lack of reliable and comparable data on the number of hives, beekeepers and colony losses in the EU. There is strong need to apply effective harmonised surveillance system to estimate the extent of bee mortalities and to develop more accurate knowledge on the extent and the causes of colony losses and other bee health problems. While a harmonised surveillance system is necessary on European level, member states also have to act in mitigating the risks affecting bee health. Research has to be harmonised and the scientific results have to be shared on European level in order to avoid overlaps. National authorities and representative organisations in the member states have to support the spreading of appropriate scientific and technical knowledge about bee health among beekeepers. A permanent and structured dialogue is needed between beekeepers, farmers and the relevant authorities. The Commission should contribute to the success of this dialogue by making available its relevant webpage on all official languages of those Member States’ where beekeeping plays an important economic role.

The report welcomes the Commission’s pilot surveillance programme on bee-health and in accordance with the Council’s conclusions, invites the Commission to make the outcome available to all interested parties, but emphasises that further efforts are needed to create an appropriate surveillance system in the EU. The Commission should also support the establishment of a European network of reference apiaries to monitor the bee health in relation with the environmental conditions and beekeeping/agricultural practices.

The report also welcomes the establishment of the EU Reference Laboratory. The Reference Laboratory should complement the activities of existing expert networks or national laboratories and should use the data and experiences collected in the COST Action COLOSS. In the meantime stresses the need to support diagnostic laboratories and field tests on national level. Further to this the Commission should provide financing for laboratories dealing with quality and safety analysis of apicultural products and sharing this information on European level.

One of the stress-factors, affecting bee health is the presence of toxic agents in the environment, especially the inappropriate or excessive use of certain pesticides. The Commission pledged to revise the data requirements for the submission of pesticide dossiers, which is a favourable development, but the provisions of the Regulation 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council should be further strengthened in order to allow for more efficient risk mitigation. The current labelling requirement on the use of pesticides is inappropriate. The authorisation of the toxic products should clearly specify in which phenological status of the target crop the plant protection products can or cannot be used and this should be clearly stated on the label of the product. A further problem is the lack of independent research on the substitution of toxic plant protection products.

There is no scientific proof of any direct negative effect of GM crops on honeybees, although an EFSA study from 2009 identified GMOs among other stress factors involved in the causes of the decline of bee populations. It is therefore important to aggregate solid data from all member states and to ensure objective research in this field. It is indeed causing concern that GM seed producers often hamper independent research by not providing purified GM pollen for toxicity test.

It is important and welcomed that he Commission will present a comprehensive ‘Animal Health Law’ in early 2012, which will replace the current basic veterinary legislation. The specific needs of the beekeeping sector should be taken into account during the revision. This review should be based on a broad public consultation with stakeholders. The review should allow for the greater degree of availability of veterinary medicinal products. Moreover, it is welcomed that the Commission recognised the social and environmental importance of pollination, and according to this, the pollinators’ health is properly emphasised in the newly published EU Biodiversity Strategy, in order to fight against the consequent degradation of natural bee pastures, and the eradication of melliferous plant species. Sustainable agricultural practices should be in the heart of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy, urging farmers to apply a package of agronomic practices, including crop rotation, permanent pasture, cover crops and green infrastructure areas. Monocultures cause reduced quality and quantity in nectar and pollen sources for bees. Besides cereal and maize cultivation for feed and energy production, the use of extended crop rotation systems, on-farm mixed cropping and grass-clover mixtures can have major environmental and agronomic benefits, since the growing of leguminous crops as part of a rotation system can prevent diseases, regenerate the soil, have a beneficial effect on the population of pollinators and protect the climate. Therefore under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy the active management of ecosystems by farmers, including the installation of pollinator-friendly flowered field margins should be supported.

In the past decades the research for new veterinary medicines in the beekeeping sector lagged behind. Likewise in human health research, the prerequisite of effective disease control is the continuous development medications and treatments. Frequently treated diseases with permanent presence can develop tolerance or resistance against medical active substances. The same phenomenon is true for varrosis. There are several previously developed veterinary products on the market for Varroa treatment, but none of them is really effective by now.

The revision of Directive 2001/110/EC (Honey directive) is important from many aspects. The current lax provisions on the quality of honey and on the presence of external organic or synthetic components (including antibiotics) led to an uncertain situation as member states lay down different tolerance levels, which may distort the competition on the internal market. A uniform legislation have to be set up for antibiotic residue content allowed in honey and in other apicultural products, thereby ensuring the undisturbed functioning of the internal market of honey and eliminating competition distortion between beekeepers in different Member States. Typically the minimal level of concentration of these substances does not pose any threat to human health, therefore No Action Levels (NAL) or Reference Point of Actions (RPA) should be introduced for honey.

The designation of origin prescribed by the Honey directive is also contradictory and is not in line current quality policy of the EU. The current provisions in point 4 of the Directive 2001/110 EC, on the labelling of apicultural products, are not guaranteeing the protection of the EU beekeeping sector and do not provide appropriate information to the consumers.

So far the honey sector has not taken full advantage of the benefits of the European quality policy. Less than a dozen of apicultural products were granted with PDO or PGI indications and producers are reluctant to apply for geographical indications.

Under the new Common Agricultural Policy from 2013, the EU should give targeted support for young beekeepers in order to counterbalance the unfavourable age structure of the beekeeping sector.


OPINION of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (14.7.2011)

for the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development

on honeybee health and the challenges for the beekeeping sector

(2011/2108(INI))

Rapporteur: Julie Girling

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety calls on the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1.  Reiterates concerns that increased mortality among honeybees and wild pollinators in Europe would, if left unchecked, have a profound negative impact on agriculture, food production and security, biodiversity, environmental sustainability and ecosystems;

2.  Considers that the health of honeybees should be seen as an important bio-indicator for the state of our environment and the sustainability of agricultural practices;

3.  Considers that it is important to take urgent measures to protect bee health, taking into account the specificities of beekeeping, the diversity of actors involved and the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity;

4.  Given the lack of representative and comparable data at European level on honeybee colony losses, stresses the need to quantify these losses and to establish an appropriate counting system common to all Member States;

5.  Highlights the fact that besides domesticated honeybees, the populations of wild bees (e.g. bumblebees) and other valuable pollinators (e.g. butterflies and hoverflies) are also in steep decline;

6.  Since pollination by bees has an important economic effect but no market value is currently given to this pollination service, which many sectors benefit from and depend on, believes that measures taken by farmers to provide forage for bees should be rewarded in economic terms;

7.  Welcomes the Commission’s communication on Honeybee Health (COM(2010)0714) and recalls Parliament’s resolution of 25 November 2010 on the situation of the beekeeping sector(1); confirms the need for sustainable agricultural practices to protect natural resources and biodiversity and agricultural ecosystems and to promote training and skills;

8.  Acknowledges the scientific consensus that honeybee colony losses cannot be attributed to one factor, but are due to many factors including:

     –   parasites, specifically the Varroa destructor mite, and the Nosema ceranae fungus, that serve to weaken the immune system of bees and cultivate viral growth which, if left untreated, can result in colony death within three years;

     –   a lack of accessible and inexpensive veterinary medicines to combat varroasis and of appropriate treatments authorised and adapted for bees;

     –   reduced wild forage resulting from the effects of climate changes and a reliance on monoculture farming, enhanced by GMOs and treatment of seeds with plant protection products , which weakens bee health because of food shortages and the reduced diversity and increased distance of food supplies, and which makes bees more susceptible to the other factors;

     –   biodiversity loss of any origin with impact on availability and quality of pollen resources;

     –   plant protection products, including those in the neonicotinoid family (Clothianidin, Thiacloprid, Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam), phenyl pyrazole (Fipronil), pyrethroids and active substances such as Chlorpyrifos and Dimethoate, with lethal effects (mortality due to the acute or chronic toxicity of active substances in plant protection products) or sub-lethal effects (effects on the immune system or on behaviour of bees), directly or via contaminated water, droplet guttation, nectar and pollen;

     –   electromagnetic fields that may disturb the orientation and navigation of honeybees;

     –   genetically modified crops, in particular Bt crops, which affect honeybees’ learning performance, causing sub-lethal effects;

9.  In view of the effect of pesticides on the development of bee colonies and bee larvae, recalls the importance for the chronic exposure of bees and bee larvae to these pesticides to be included in the pesticide evaluation scheme; also calls for account to be taken in the evaluation schemes of the new exposure routes of bees (e.g. guttation); calls for good experimental practices to be established for the evaluation of impacts on bees, particularly the obligation to present a complete review of the scientific literature and the results of all the tests conducted by the applicant;

10. Calls for a timetable to be established leading in the long term to the definitive withdrawal from the market of neurotoxic pesticides and of products for agricultural use containing these substances;

11. Emphasises the importance of greater cooperation between beekeepers, farmers, industry, the authorities and scientists in investigating the causes of the increased bee colony losses and, on the basis of this research, finding appropriate solutions to the problem;

12. Calls for support to be given to research programmes concerning bee parasites and diseases and how to tackle them, and for knowledge bases on bee physiology to be established in cooperation with the Member States but also outside the European Union, in particular by supporting the COLOSS world programme and by enhancing cooperation between national laboratories to create knowledge sharing and an expert network;

13. Supports the establishment of an EU Reference Laboratory (EURL) for bee health(2), with a view to gaining a better understanding of the factors affecting bee health and how to tackle them effectively, by improving coordination and harmonising monitoring and research programmes for apiculture, including beekeeping associations carried out in Member States; requests that the Commission actively encourage a greater degree of information-sharing between Member States, laboratories and beekeepers on eco-toxicological studies and other factors affecting honeybee health and ensure free access to the ecotoxicological studies included in applications for authorisation, to enable informed and independent scientific scrutiny; calls for independent and timely research into bee mortality;

14. Considers that, with a view to the exchange of good practice and experience between the EU Member States, the programmes for monitoring bee diseases and research should be harmonised;

15. Calls on the aforementioned laboratory to develop standardised criteria for the well-being of bees, on the basis of which deserving beekeepers could be granted access to the payments provided for under Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 of 20 September 2005 on support for rural development;

16. Stresses that studies of bee populations should investigate various conceivable factors in order to clarify which types of agriculture are most beneficial to the health of bee populations in their vicinity;

17. Calls on the Commission to present a report setting out how honey bees will be affected by the climate changes predicted for the coming decades by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;

18. Calls on the Commission to support and conduct independent long-term scientific research on the effects of electromagnetic field exposure on honey bees and wild pollinators;

19. Calls on the Commission to health and a healthy diet take into account when drawing up the priorities for the 8th Framework Programme for Research and to support research into bee health and into the causes of rising bee mortality, including by developing new methods of controlling bee diseases;

20. Calls for a global bee medicine strategy to be established, which should identify, for each bee disease, the conditions of use where appropriate treatment must be clarified;

21. Supports breeding programmes which concentrate on disease and pest tolerance, especially against varroasis;

22. Calls for increased support for veterinary treatments in order to reduce the negative effects of diseases and parasites;

23. Calls on the Commission to look into the possibility of extending cover under the European Union Veterinary Fund to bee diseases when the fund is next revised;

24. Welcomes the Commission’s intention to introduce maximum residue levels for the use of medicinal products through the ‘cascade’ procedure in order to eliminate the current legal uncertainty which hinders the treatment of sick bees;

25. Stresses that Europe’s beekeeping sector remains mostly unregulated, precluding the use of registered veterinary medicines for bees and other preventative health measures;

26. Calls on the Commission to promote measures to support SMEs with a view to fostering innovation and the development of specific new veterinary medicinal products for bee diseases;

27. Emphasises concerns that, owing to the high cost of establishing a beekeeping enterprise, there are fewer people entering the sector, resulting in a shortfall in the hives needed to pollinate vital agricultural crops;

28. Recognises the vital role of the professional beekeeping sector, and the growing need to protect, maintain and promote its sustainability through appropriate educational and funding programmes;

29. Urges the Commission to find creative and effective ways of encouraging beekeeping as a profession and training new beekeepers;

30. Stresses that apiculture education must go beyond the beekeeping and agricultural sectors in order to facilitate public action and participation in creating better nesting and foraging habitats for bees in urban areas;

31. Considers it essential to provide more training for beekeepers in all the Member States, given that honeybee management is in the hands of beekeepers and good bee management, in particular through the use of good practices and respect for the regulations in force, is crucial to bee health;

32. Urges the Commission to take action on the problem of unfair competition with regard to apiculture products imported onto the Community market from outside the European Union;

33. In the knowledge that 97 % of Europe’s 700 000 beekeepeers are non-professional, accounting for 67 % of hives, calls for a guide to good apicultural and hygiene practice to be drawn up in collaboration with the EURL in Sophia-Antipolis and with national institutes, taking into account the specificities of beekeeping, the diversity of the actors involved, and the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity; stresses the need to limit bee habitat destruction, leaving more natural areas in cities and the countryside; also points out the need to take into account the main socio-economic aspects and the need for the sector to remain competitive on the global market;

34. Emphasises that targeted regulatory measures can help to incentivise local and regional authorities in establishing improved wild foraging habitats;

35. Stresses the importance of promoting measures designed to encourage biodiversity, bearing in mind that bee health is fostered by access to a mixture of different pollen and plants;

36. Emphasises that the number of pollinator species is declining at an alarming rate worldwide and that one of the reasons for this is the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms, which adversely affect bee populations;

37. Emphasises that there is growing scientific evidence that bees which have access to a mixture of pollens from different plants are healthier than those fed on only one type of pollen; calls on the Commission to follow closely any developments and to support research in this area; stresses that further research and examination should be performed in order to ensure that GMOs do not cause harm to the bee population; recognises that monocultures of any type reduce biodiversity and therefore access to melliferous flora, which could have an impact on honeybees; calls on the Commission to put sustainable agricultural practices at the heart of the CAP and acknowledges the need to promote proper land management and other agri-environmental schemes (AESs)(3) to increase access to melliferous plants and biodiversity;

38. Strongly supports prudent EU legislation and thorough scientific risk assessments as regards genetically modified organisms (GMOs); points out that monoculture poses a risk of insufficient pollination and is leading to the disappearance of melliferous flora;

39. Calls on the Commission to promote further independent scientific research on the long-term effects of genetically modified crops, especially the spread of Bt toxins via pollen on honeybees and wild pollinators in general, on synergies between different plant protection products, and on synergies between exposure to plant protection products and pathologies; calls for a moratorium on the cultivation of GM crops in case these studies reveal negative effects on honeybees’ health;

40. Emphasises that if it cannot be established that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a significant factor in the reduction in the number of bee colonies, it is essential to resolve the problems faced by beekeepers, in particular the dispersal of pollen by pollen-gathering bees and the probability of contamination of the pollen;

41. Recalls the new provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 on assessment of active substances in plant protection products, and those products as such, not only with regard to their acute effects, but also with regard to their chronic effects on colony survival and development, taking into account effects on honeybee larvae and honeybee behaviour; points out, however:

     (a) that the data requirements, which need to be amended accordingly, will not be applicable until the end of 2013 at the earliest,

     (b) that adequate testing protocols still need to be developed in the meantime, and

     (c) that the new provisions will only be applied to the approval of new substances or the renewal of existing approvals, as well as to the authorisation of new plant protection products or their renewal, so that existing approvals/authorisations will not be assessed in an appropriate manner for many years to come, unless specifically reviewed;

42. Calls on the Commission to review the approval of all active substances suspected of contributing to colony losses of bees in accordance with the new provisions and data requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 as soon as the new data requirements are applicable;

43. Welcomes the provision for an independent assessment by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) experts of the newly required research;

44. Asks the EFSA, when independently evaluating new bee safety data requirements and testing methodologies for pesticides ahead of their authorisation, to take into account the research and information collected by the EURL;

45. Stresses the importance of sustainable farming and the sustainable use of pesticides, and calls for full implementation of Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides, which aims to achieve sustainable use of pesticides by reducing the risks and impacts of pesticide use on the environment, including honey bees, particularly as regards those measures intended to promote training and education of farmers and collaboration with beekeepers;

46. Recalls Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides and especially Article 14 thereof, which makes it mandatory for all farmers to apply the general principles of integrated pest management on their farms as from 2014, and Article 9, which places a general ban on aerial spraying;

47. Strongly supports the application of the precautionary principle when it comes to the use of pesticides and agrees with the Commission that the use of pesticides in agriculture should be regarded as one of the factors affecting bee health; believes that use of pesticides should be taken into account at least in order to clarify if and to what extent they may play a role in bee health; points out that special attention must be paid to the use of pesticides of the neonicotinoid family that could cause digestive and hormonal disruption; stresses that the long-term effects of systemic pesticides are underestimated and may partially explain the decline in bee populations;

48. Calls on the Commission to comply with the precautionary principle and to impose an EU-wide ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until independent scientific studies prove that there is no chronic exposure to toxins for honeybees and no danger to the environment and public health originating from their use;

49. Reaffirms that the Commission considers the honeybee a domesticated species, and therefore a livestock sector, which facilitates better health, welfare and protection6 measures(4) and makes for better information on conserving wild pollinators; calls, therefore, for a bee health protection strategy to be established and for the beekeeping sector to be incorporated into agricultural legislation and veterinary legislation taking account of its specific character, particularly with regard to compensation for beekeepers’ losses in their bee population;

50. Wishes to include support for organic farmers in the 2013-2020 budget for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP);

51. Underlines the importance of current EU funding for the promotion of production and marketing of apiculture products, but stresses the need to ensure that each Member State applies this funding as intended;

52. Emphasises the need to further finance agri-environmental programmes encouraging biodiversity, such as those providing plants to attract honeybees;

53. Recalls its resolution of 8 March 2011 on ‘The EU protein deficit: what solution for a long-standing problems’(5), and especially recital AF thereof, which states: ‘whereas, besides cereal and maize cultivation for feed and energy production, the use of extended crop rotation systems, on-farm mixed cropping and grass-clover mixtures, which can have major environmental and agronomic benefits, should be encouraged, since the growing of leguminous crops as part of a rotation system can prevent diseases, regenerate the soil, have a beneficial effect on the population of pollinators and protect the climate’, and recalls the importance of keeping crop rotation as a key element of the so-called green component of the Common Agricultural Policy towards 2020;

54. Calls on the Commission to put sustainable agricultural practices at the heart of the CAP by asking all EU farmers as from 2014 to apply a simple package of agronomic practices (including crop rotation, permanent pasture, cover crops and green infrastructure areas) and to strengthen and develop the agri-environmental measures specific to the beekeeping sector, in the spirit of the new EU Biodiversity Strategy, and to encourage farmers to engage in agri-environmental measures in order to support ‘bee-friendly’ grasslands on field margins, to employ high-diversity rotation with leguminous crops and to use non-chemical alternatives;

55. Calls on the Commission and Member States to develop awareness-raising and information measures, with the aim of promoting a higher level of awareness and a greater sense of responsibility among competent authorities and producers with regard to bee diseases and the measures available to prevent and treat them;

56. Calls for a food resource strategy for bees to be drawn up with the aim of promoting available, close, diversified, adapted and high-quality food supply for bees through improved management of farmland and non-farmland, for example by incorporating bee nutrition issues into the green and blue belt infrastructure by developing apicultural set-aside areas, flowering hedges, melliferous intercropping and grass verges and by developing expertise amongst farmers in combining agriculture with biodiversity;

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

13.7.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

32

17

5

Members present for the final vote

Kriton Arsenis, Sophie Auconie, Pilar Ayuso, Paolo Bartolozzi, Sandrine Bélier, Nessa Childers, Bairbre de Brún, Esther de Lange, Anne Delvaux, Bas Eickhout, Edite Estrela, Karl-Heinz Florenz, Elisabetta Gardini, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Julie Girling, Françoise Grossetête, Satu Hassi, Jolanta Emilia Hibner, Karin Kadenbach, Christa Klaß, Jo Leinen, Corinne Lepage, Peter Liese, Linda McAvan, Miroslav Ouzký, Vladko Todorov Panayotov, Antonyia Parvanova, Andres Perello Rodriguez, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Mario Pirillo, Pavel Poc, Vittorio Prodi, Frédérique Ries, Anna Rosbach, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, Horst Schnellhardt, Richard Seeber, Salvatore Tatarella, Åsa Westlund, Glenis Willmott, Sabine Wils, Marina Yannakoudakis

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Matthias Groote, Romana Jordan Cizelj, Riikka Manner, Marisa Matias, Miroslav Mikolášik, James Nicholson, Alojz Peterle, Michèle Rivasi, Crescenzio Rivellini, Giommaria Uggias

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

José Bové, Lorenzo Fontana

(1)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0440.

(2)

EURLs are essential risk management tools in the field of animal health and play an important role as regards scientific and technical support in the area of animal health, (e.g. disease surveillance). An EURL in the field of bee health has been established by the Commission for a five-year period from 1 April 2011.

(3)

AESs encourage improved hedgerow management, increased cultivation of legumes and better interactions between beekeepers and farmers.

(4)

Through initiatives such as the Animal Health Strategy for the EU (2007-2013), which helps provide a single and clear regulatory framework for animal health, improves coordination and the efficient use of resources by relevant European agencies, and emphasises the importance of maintaining and improving diagnostic capability.

(5)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0084.


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

6.10.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

32

1

3

Members present for the final vote

John Stuart Agnew, Richard Ashworth, Liam Aylward, José Bové, Michel Dantin, Paolo De Castro, Albert Deß, Herbert Dorfmann, Lorenzo Fontana, Iratxe García Pérez, Béla Glattfelder, Martin Häusling, Esther Herranz García, Peter Jahr, Elisabeth Jeggle, Jarosław Kalinowski, Elisabeth Köstinger, Agnès Le Brun, Mairead McGuinness, James Nicholson, Rareş-Lucian Niculescu, Georgios Papastamkos, Marit Paulsen, Ulrike Rodust, Alfreds Rubiks, Giancarlo Scottà, Csaba Sándor Tabajdi, Marc Tarabella, Janusz Wojciechowski

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Luís Paulo Alves, Spyros Danellis, Bas Eickhout, Ismail Ertug, Giovanni La Via, Astrid Lulling, Hans-Peter Mayer, Dimitar Stoyanov

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

George Sabin Cutaş, Pablo Zalba Bidegain

Last updated: 3 November 2011Legal notice