A clear majority of Member States have supported the Commission's proposal for a protection goal of 10% today at the AGRIFISH Council, following a political discussion at the request of the European Commission. The 10% threshold supported by the Ministers will now be taken into account by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to finalise the Guidance Document.
Welcoming the agreement, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides made the following statement:
“I welcome the constructive debate in the Council today and the clear support for an ambitious goal in the critical protection of our pollinators. We can now put the deadlock in the discussions behind us, and finally focus on achieving the desired results. Time is of essence - for our environment and the wellbeing of our planet.
I am therefore pleased that a clear majority of Ministers have today supported our goal to increase our ambitions and significantly strengthen the level of protection provided to bees. Ministers have supported a maximum permitted level of honeybee colony size reduction of 10% as specific protection goal across the EU. This increases the protection as it is significantly lower than what is accepted under the current guidance. At the same time it is realistic, allowing for the conduct of field studies to measure whether the protection goal is met. This is very good news and a significant achievement.
We all know that ensuring a high level of protection of bees and other pollinators is crucial for the environment. The decision taken today by the Ministers will enable EFSA to finalise the review of the Bee Guidance Document. Concretely, this means that the risk assessment for honeybees from exposure to pesticides willfinally be updated after almost 20 years.
The decision taken today is therefore a clear sign of our commitment and engagement to achieve the objectives of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies. I now call on the European Parliament to engage constructively and ensure that we can finally give bees the protection they deserve.”
The European Food Safety Authority can now finalise the review of the Bee Guidance Document. Subsequently a draft Regulation enabling the implementation of the Bee Guidance Document will be submitted to the Standing Committee Plants, Animals, Food and Feed. To move forward, a qualified majority is needed. The draft Regulation will then be subject to scrutiny by the Parliament and the Council before adoption by the Commission.
In 2002, the Commission published guidance regarding Terrestrial Ecotoxicology which includes a section on the assessment of the risk that pesticides pose to honey bees.
In 2011, the Commission requested from EFSA a scientific opinion as a basis for the development of a risk assessment of plant protection products for bees (Apis mellifera and Bombus spp.) and to prepare a guidance document to conduct such a risk assessment. EFSA published the Bee Guidance Document in 2013.
Since 2013, despite repeated efforts by the Commission to obtain endorsement for this guidance document in the Standing Committee for Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, a clear majority of Member States consistently objected to such an endorsement because they considered its implementation not possible in practice.
To break this stalemate, Commission mandated EFSA in March 2019 to review the 2013 Bee Guidance Document, taking into account new scientific knowledge that has emerged since 2013. The current crucial step in this review, is the setting of a specific protection goal for honeybees.
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