Bees at the European Parliament

12 June 2012 | News story

In conjunction with European Bees and Pollination week, the Bees Biodiversity Network partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and Gaston Franco, MEP to hold the International Conference on “Biodiversity, a Culture to Share” this 5th and 6th June in Brussels at the European Parliament.

The event featured a flower garden at the main entrance of the Parliament building with beautiful displays of Sunflower, Rapeseed and other plant species commonly used in European agriculture to publicly demonstrate the link between agriculture and pollination. Discussions brought together scientists, industry, NGOs and policymakers to discuss links between biodiversity and pollinator decline.

MEP Franco, who is also Chair of the Forestry subgroup of the Parliament's Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Intergroup co-manged by IUCN, emphasised that bees are crucial to the production of fruit crops and explained that 35% of the world’s food production will be threatened if they disappear completely. Just over €3m in new funding from the European Commission (EC) was allocated to 17 Member States to be used to further research of bee decline. MEP Franco warned "the consequences of the disappearance of bees could be a disaster. Our future lies with sustainable agriculture".

Pollinators are declining in the EU and the European Red List of Pollinators, an initiative funded by the EC and commissioned to IUCN, will contribute to improve the knowledge on this pressing issue. In the next three years, IUCN will assess the conservation status of all wild bee species occurring in Europe and will examine the major threats to pollinators. These species play an essential role in delivering key ecosystem services and supporting livelihoods. More on the European Red List can be found here.

Mr. François Wakenhut, Head of Biodiversity Unit at the EC Directorate-General for the Environment, presented the role of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy in maintaining pollinator populations. He also spoke about the degradation of ecosystem services and its effects on pollination. Mr. Wakenhut presented figures showing that 50% of high-nature farmland, which plays a fundamental role in pollination, has disappeared in recent years. He added that 75-80% of the world's crop plants rely on animal pollination and that even a fast food meal would not be possible without pollination.

A fruitful debate during the conference brought to light issues around the importance of being vigilant when it comes to assessing the effects of pesticides on honeybees. Representatives from NGOs as well as from pesticide industries spoke about the challenges of balancing biodiversity with the needs of agricultural sectors. The overall message of the discussion was that the EU must do more to protect Europe's bee populations if it wants to secure food production in the years to come. The European Red List of Pollinators will play a crucial role in defining measures to protect pollinators.