Disappointment As "Plan Bee" Falls Short

15 November 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, expressed his disappointment at today's vote by the full Parliament in Strasbourg on a committee report on the future of beekeeping in the EU.
He criticised the report as being a "missed opportunity" to examine the importance of sustainable agricultural systems, and as a report which does not adequately reflect the threats to bees which exist today.

The report contained important provisions on creating a network of European "reference hives" for testing purposes, for financial support for research, and for better training of beekeepers in disease control. However, the report failed to take seriously the threat of highly toxic pesticides on bee mortality, the implications for the beekeeping sector of GMO contamination of honey and beekeeping products, or the negative implications for bees of the spread of monocultures.

Bees pollinate 90% of the world's commercial plants, including most fruits, vegetables and nuts. Chinese studies estimated that one hive can pollinate 3 million flowers a day versus one worker who can pollinate only 30 fruit trees a day by hand. However, bee numbers have been in serious decline in recent years.

Alyn said:

"I'm afraid that today's Plan Bee only gets a grade B. Good progress but more to be done. Our group submitted an alternative resolution because we felt that the text which the Agriculture Committee produced lacked teeth, as well as a realistic analysis of the problems facing beekeepers and the honey sector today. In particular, it ignored the ramifications of the Court of Justice verdict on MON 810 (GMO) contamination of pollen, and the resultant uncertain legal position for the sale of honey products contaminated by GMOs. The Commission has not given a clear lead on this, and the idea of retrospectively legalising MON 810 for honey simply encourages moral hazard. Our beekeepers and honey retailers need a plan now.

"Similarly, the report did not deal with the clear effect of monocultures in the decline of bee numbers. Bees thrive in diverse ecosystems, and the agricultural model we have today - chemical intensive monocultures - will not encourage bee populations. We should be looking at diversifying and making more sustainable agricultural production, such as through crop rotation: buffer strips are not enough on their own."