Urgent call for EU-wide action to halt bee deaths

On 15 November 2011 the EU parliament voted for a resolution on honeybee health. Rising bee mortality could have a serious impact on Europe's food production and environmental stability, as most plants are pollinated by bees, warned MEPs on Tuesday. Parliament's resolution calls on the EU to step up investment in research on new medicines and coordinate its efforts to protect what is fast becoming an endangered species.

"Pollination, a public good benefiting all European agriculture, can only be preserved by joint European action", said author of the resolution Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D, HU).

To get more accurate information on current bee health problems and allow better comparison, MEPs want to see national surveillance systems put in place and harmonised standards developed at EU level for data collection.

EU countries should pool their research on disease prevention and control efforts and share their findings among laboratories, beekeepers, farmers and the industry so as to avoid overlaps and boost effectiveness, says the resolution. EU-level research funding should also be stepped up, as should support for diagnostic laboratories and field tests at national level, it adds.

Better access to new medicines
Rules on authorising and making available veterinary products for honeybees should be made more flexible and pharmaceutical companies should be given incentives to develop new ones to treat diseases such as Varroa mite. However, excessive use of antibiotics should be avoided, due to their impact on bee product quality and growing antibiotic resistance, say MEPs.

Improved disease control
Another factor affecting bee health is presence of toxic agents, such as pesticides, in the environment. Special training programmes for farmers on the effects of these agents and the use of bee-friendly plant-protection products should be supported, said MEPs, along with similar programmes for beekeepers and veterinarians on disease prevention and control.

MEPs also asked the Commission to conduct objective research on possible negative effect on GMO crops on honeybee health.

Monitoring imports
The European Commission should also monitor animal health developments in third countries, apply the strictest animal health requirements and put in place a system for monitoring imported products, so as to avoid introducing exotic bee diseases, they add.

An estimated 84% of plant species and 76% of food production in Europe depends on pollination by bees. The beekeeping sector provides income, directly or indirectly, for more than 600,000 EU citizens.

The Tabadji resolution was passed with 534 votes in favour, 16 against and 92 abstentions.