The European Commission has decided to register a European citizens’ initiative entitled “ Save the bees! Protection of biodiversity and improvement of insect habitats in Europe”.
The organisers call on the Commission to “adopt legislation to maintain and improve insect habitats as indicators of an intact environment”.
The citizens’ initiative focuses on the creation of mandatory targets “to make the promotion of biodiversity a general objective of the common agricultural policy; drastically reduce the use of pesticides, ban harmful pesticides without exception and reform the eligibility criteria; foster structural diversity in agricultural landscapes; effectively reduce nutrients (eg Natura 2000); establish effective conservation zones; intensify research and control and improve education”.
Foraging insects are essential for pollination and allow 80 percent of plant species to reproduce. It is estimated that 30 percent of our diet is directly related to bee work.
However, 30 to 40 percent of colonies have been decimated in less than 10 years in Europe due to multiple factors including the arrival of new predators (Asian hornets), climate change, contagious diseases, but also the monoculture farming system and the ubiquitous use of chemicals.
In recent years campaigners have focused their efforts on reducing or banning the use of pesticides and herbicides, which researchers say have contributed to the decline in bee populations due to the disruptive effect they can have on bees’ endocrine systems.
In response the EU permanently removed three pesticides from the market last year. But many other chemicals have not been tested. The European Food Safety Authority has identified acute risks and chronic diseases that can affect bee populations and published the results in its 2013 Bee Guidance Document.
However, as of yet, EU national governments have not formally ratified the document, allowing new pesticides to come on the market, leading to accusations from environmental campaigners that politicians have succumbed to pressure from the agro-chemical industry.
Recently, the Ombudsman of the European Union acknowledged that the adoption process of the Guidance Document on Bees is an example of “mismanagement”, as the Commission has refused to grant public access to the positions the Member States have taken regarding its findings.
The registration of the save the bees citizens initiative will take place on May 27, which will start a process of collecting signatures of support from its organisers that will last one year.
In the event that the initiative receives one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the Commission must decide within three months.
The Commission may decide to proceed with the request or not, but in both cases it must justify its decision.