MEPs Vote Against Limited Pesticide Protection for Bees

The European Parliament ENVI Committee voted on Monday, Oct 21, in favour of a Draft Motion for a Resolution concerning Commission Regulation (EU) amending Regulation (EU) No 546/2011 regarding the assessment of the impact of plant protection products on honeybees. The approved motion aims at putting a halt to the European Commission's proposal to adopt a weak risk assessment for pesticides that affect bees. The amending resolution could now lead to reconsidering guidelines and selecting the best assessment protocols available, the EFSA Bee Guidance document. On Wednesday, Oct 23, the resolution will be held to vote in the plenary.

If the Parliament also adopts the resolution in plenary, the European Commission will be obligated to recall and restructure its original proposal. As stated in the resolution, now approved by the ENVI Committee, "it is unacceptable that Member States oppose the full implementation of the 2013 EFSA bee guidance. "(The draft) only introduces modifications (...) with regard to acute toxicity to honeybees, but remains silent on chronic toxicity to honeybees, as well as on toxicity to bumblebees and solitary bees".

These political developments are helping ensure that pesticides are run through a more thorough and safe process before released into the environment. Bees and other pollinators face significant challenges in the field due to exposure to pesticides used in intensive agriculture throughout Europe. A better risk assessment can only be beneficial for them and the environment, to which they provide essential ecosystem services.

Six years ago, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its Guidance on the Risk Assessment of Plant Protection Products on Bees, also known as the Bee Guidance Document. It updates and integrates a more comprehensive evaluation of risk assessment for pesticides before their introduction to the market. A large portion of stakeholders welcomed the document, including beekeepers and NGOs such as BeeLife. It presented the opportunity for more realistic risk evaluations, as it also measures long-term effects of active substances. The document could lead to a significant improvement in the protection of bees and pollinators in Europe. However, its application continued to be delayed and even risked being dismissed. Fortunately, yesterday's vote is a first step in putting the bee guidance document back on the table.

This week's developments are pointing towards the full implementation of EFSA's Bee Guidance Document. After the vote in the plenary, the European Commission will have a new chance to include the entirety of EFSA's recommendations. It will thus bring Europe to the state-of-the-art risk assessment guidelines for pesticides that have an impact on bees.

BugLife, BeeLife, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network Europe, Pollinis and Sum of Us sent Members of the European Parliament a letter previous to the vote asking to support the objection to the draft by the European Commission.

Read the full letter below or download it here.

Re. Bees unprotected - please support the objection to the draft Commission Regulation on the assessment of pesticides’ impact on bees - Vote in ENVI on Monday, 21 October

Dear Member of the European Parliament,

With this letter, BeeLife, BugLife, Greenpeace, SumOfUs, POLLINIS and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe ask you to support the proposed objection against the draft Commission Regulation (EU) amending Regulation (EU) No 546/2011 as regards the assessment of the impact of plant protection products on honeybees.

The draft resolution will be put to vote in the Parliament’s ENVI Committee on 21 October.

If the Parliament’s plenary adopts this resolution, it will effectively stop the Commission’s plans to maintain scandalously weak levels of protection for bees against harmful pesticides, which are based on outdated science. We urge you, on behalf of our memberships of hundreds of thousands of citizens across Europe[1], to demand the implementation of the highest standards available to protect bees from pesticides, as requested by the pesticide regulation 1107/2009/EC and as set out in EFSA’s 2013 Bee Guidance document.[2]

Europe’s bees and other insects are under threat. In Germany, scientists have recorded losses of more than 75 percent of the total mass of insects in protected areas over 27 years.[3] In the Netherlands, detailed data shows that more than 50 percent of wild bee species are threatened with extinction.[4] One of the major causes for these developments is industrial farming exposing bees to harmful pesticides.[5]

The 2013 Bee Guidance document is the most up-to-date scientific standard for pesticide risk assessment for bees. It includes an assessment of acute and chronic effects of pesticides on both honeybees and wild bees. This guidance enabled EFSA to provide a full evaluation of risk arising from the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides, which in turn allowed the EU to impose its much-celebrated 2018 ban on all outdoor uses of these pesticides.

Both the Commission and EFSA have repeatedly stated that they support the 2013 Bee Guidance document. But Member States have blocked its application in the Standing Committee on Plant, Animal, Food and Feed. In the meantime old guidance from 2002 remains in place which was co-written by the pesticide industry[6] and which is based on “outdated” science, according to the Commission[7] and EFSA[8].

European citizens are aware of how important the application of robust pre-approval tests of pesticides are to reversing pollinator declines and demand the immediate and integral adoption of the 2013 EFSA guidance.1

The EU must protect Europe’s bees and the environment from dangerous pesticides on the basis of “current scientific and technical knowledge”9, according to the EU’s pesticide regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009). The failure of the Member States and the European Commission to apply the regulations means it is now down to MEPs to veto their unacceptable plans and get the tasks of respecting EU law and protecting Europe’s bees back on track.


Rebecca Falcon, SumOfUs

Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace Europe

Barbara Berardi, Pollinis

Noa Simon Delso, Bee Life

Martin Dermine, Pesticide Action Network Europe

[1] 238,000 people have signed the SumOfUs petition for full implementation of the Bee Guidance document

[2] EFSA (2013). EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees). EFSA Journal 2013; 11(7):3295

[3] Hallmann CA et al. (2017). More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12(10)

[4] Reemer, M. (2018). Basisrapport voor de Rode Lijst Bijen, EIS Kenniscentrum Insecten Leiden.

[5] Sánchez-Bayo, F., & Wyckhuys, K. A. (2019). Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation, 232, 8-27.

[6] Pesticide Action Network (2018). Industry writing its own rules and CEO and BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination (2010): Is the future of bees in the hand of pesticide lobby?

[7] Response to Greenpeace and others from Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, 31/01/2017

[8] EFSA (2012). Scientific Opinion on the science behind the development of a risk assessment of Plant Protection Products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees). EFSA Journal 10 (5), 1–275 (2012).

[9] Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, Article 4; ANNEX II, Point 3.8.3; Articles 11 and 36

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