Bee Health in Europe
Tuesday, 26th of February 2013, 09:00
“7 years to address the issue of bee health: the clock is ticking”
Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Rapporteur for the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) hosted a conference on ‘Bee Health in Europe’ in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday 26 February 2013.
“The problem of bee health is a very serious one,” said the MEP: “Fortunately, European society is becoming increasingly aware of the problem and policy-makers have it at the top of their agendas to finding the right solutions.” MEP Capoulas Santos also emphasised the fact that the problem linked to the health of bees is not only economic but also environmental.
first session of the conference gave an overview of the current scientific
analysis of threats to bee health. Dr.
Ettore Capri (OPERA Research Centre) presented the latest OPERA report that
seeks to provide comprehensive data on this complex issue. It was argued that t here
is wide agreement in the scientific community on the fact that bee health is
influenced by a number of factors, among which highly damaging pathogens like
the Varroa mite but also other anthropogenic causes, which are very much
related to agricultural and beekeeping practices. It was argued that no clear
evidence from the field shows a positive correlation between the use of
pesticides and bee colony losses. Dr.
Helen Thompson (FERA) underlined the necessity to take levels of exposure
into account when assessing the impact of pesticides on bees and argued that
the toxicity of pesticides can be altered by several factors
including diet and co-exposure to other chemicals. Dr. Stephen Martin, researcher at the University of Salford,
co-authored a study in 2012 that confirmed the crucial role of the parasitic
Varroa mite, particularly in relation to the spreading and impact of the deformed
wing virus. “Our study proved that there
is a strong and unquestionable link between the Varroa mite, the deformed wing
virus and the death of bee colonies,” confirmed Dr. Martin. Peter Maske, representing the German
beekeepers said that improvement of food supply is the greatest support that
can be provided to bees. Generally, the speakers called for more studies and
data reporting to be carried in order to improve knowledge and to ensure that
adequate decisions are taken.
European beekeepers were widely represented in the audience, which opened a lively debate on key issues such as uncertainty in science, the impact of pesticides on bee health, the controversial issue of ‘greening’ measures, crop diversification and development of areas of ecological interest to fight monoculture, etc.
Opinion in Europe on this issue is still divided: several speakers and participants in the audience echoed a call for better dialogue between beekeepers, farmers and science in order to ensure a successful future for bees. All parties showed willingness to promote the health of bees, while recognising that there is no one single causes neither one single solution.
The European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA) set up a multidisciplinary internal task force to make an inventory of studies conducted on bees, inside and outside EFSA to identify cross-cutting issues and further research needs for a more integrated approach on the evaluation of risks posed to bees and their ecosystem services. In addition, a scientific colloquium organised by the Emerging Risks Unit at EFSA will take place on 15-16 May in Italy on “Bee Health: Towards Holistic Approaches to the Risk Assessment of Multiple Stressors in Bees.”
This conference was organised by the Secretariat of the European Parliament Intergroup “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development” run jointly by the European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Documents of the meeting
List of participants