Check Against Delivery

 

 

Chair, Ministers,

Thank you for this public debate today on the very important topic of protecting bees.

Citizens care about what happens here today. Pollinators are the very foundation of our ecosystem, and we are all here accountable about the outcomes we leave behind for future generations.

Ensuring a high level of protection of bees and other pollinators is priority for the Commission when deciding on the approval of pesticides.

The Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies for us are agendas for change.

Our action to protect bees has been deadlocked for far too long. We all need to realise that time is ticking and we cannot fail on the societal expectations we need to live up to.

For the Commission there are two critical points here.

First, that pesticides can only be authorised in the EU if a comprehensive risk assessment has demonstrated that their use is not leading to harmful effects on human or animal health, nor to an unacceptable impact on the environment.

Second, the current reference point for the risk assessment for honey bees is a Guidance Document dating back almost twenty years, to 2002. It is not the 2013 Bee Guidance Document from the European Food Safety Authority, which Member States never endorsed. And it is not the compromise proposal made back in 2017 that the European Parliament rejected.

Since March 2019, at the Commission’s request, EFSA has been reviewing the 2013 Guidance Document, taking into account scientific knowledge that has emerged since then. Today’s discussion around setting a specific protection goal for honey bees marks a crucial step in this review.

The question before us is: how large a reduction in the size of honey bee colonies because of exposure to pesticides are we willing to accept?

I am proposing that we set the maximum permitted level of honeybee colony size reduction at 10%, across the entire Union.

This value of 10% is very ambitious compared to what is acceptable under the Guidance from 2002, and also compared to the variability of colony size found by EFSA.

This is a measurable goal that we can work towards, according to EFSA.

We are therefore addressing your concern about the feasibility of field studies for the 7% protection goal proposed in 2013 while more than doubling today’s protection levels.

I would therefore ask you to support this ambitious yet feasible protection goal. I am, however, open to a lower value than 10% for a colony size reduction, if a clear majority considers this desirable and feasible.

 

Ministers,

I cannot stress enough how important it is that we decide on the protection goal for honey bees today.

We have taken the initiative to propose this specific target and to have this political discussion among Ministers today.

Only once we have agreed a value can EFSA finalise the review of the Bee Guidance Document, and the risk assessment for honey bees from exposure to pesticides can finally be updated after almost 20 years.

Let us work together today to achieve this important milestone for better protection of pollinators.