Brussels, 6 December 2010
Bee health: a Commission paper outlines need for more action in the EU
Healthy bees are important both for honey production and as pollinators of plants, such as fruit trees. In recent years, an increase in bee mortality has been reported in several countries around the world. To get a better understanding of the reasons behind the high bee mortality worldwide, the European Commission today set out its ideas on a series of specific actions. So far, scientific studies have determined neither the exact causes nor the precise extent of the problem. The Commission has launched a number of initiatives to address the concerns of the beekeeping sector, and other actions are already in the pipeline. Beekeeping is a widely-developed activity in the EU. There are about 700,000 beekeepers in the Union, most of whom enjoy beekeeping as a hobby. The paper adopted today will assist the efforts to find solutions to the problem.
Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, John Dalli said: "The protection of honeybee health is of high importance in the EU. The EU should reinforce the framework in place, in the spirit of our Animal Health Strategy principle 'prevention is better than cure' and assist the Member States and the beekeepers in their quest for better and sustainable bee health". To conclude: "The communication adopted today will enhance the discussion on bee health with all interested parties and could pave the way for more action from the EU."
Tackling bee mortality
The Commission Communication clarifies the key issues related to bee health and outlines the initiatives that the Commission has launched to address the issue, as well as actions that it has already undertaken. The Commission has launched, completed or planned the following specific actions that will permit a better understanding of bee mortality, and consequently of the various remedial actions that may be required,:
The way forward
The Communication should serve as a basis for further discussion with the European Parliament, the Council as well as Member States' authorities and stakeholders. It should also help in identifying possible further actions needed at EU level.
Further harmonisation of EU measures taking into account proportionality and subsidiarity will play a key role in these considerations. The measures could also include non-legislative initiatives to promote a higher level of responsibility for, and awareness of, bee diseases amongst beekeepers.
The health of bees is affected by various pathogens (bacterial, viral, parasitic, etc). Little is known either about the role that bee diseases play in increased bee mortality or about the interaction between the pathogens and other factors and how this contributes to adverse bee health effects.
Other factors influencing bee health are: beekeeping practices; limited availability of medical treatments and the environment itself. Negative environmental factors to consider include the use of pesticides in agriculture, climate change, the lack of feed and the loss of habitat.
The sector is comprised of many different kinds of beekeeping (professional or hobby, stationary or mobile apiaries, transhumance). Bee health and technology is significantly different when compared to other animals such as cattle or poultry because bees live in so-called colonies and are more closely affected by their natural environment. Different regions (climate, traditional/local production); and the distribution of diseases are also factors that play a role in beekeeping.
All these elements generate complex and multiple needs, approaches, views and practices.
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