HomeIdeaWorld Bee Day, world bee day. No eligible policy

World Bee Day, world bee day. No eligible policy

May 20 is celebrated on World Bee Day, World Bee Day, international organizations are at work but there is no suitable policy in the world to mitigate their decline.

The indispensable role of these pollinating insects in preserving life on the planet - and the threats they suffer due to toxic anthropic activities - in a brief review.

1) World Bee Day, the world bee day

World bee day (World Bee Day) was established on 20 December 2017 on the initiative of Slovenia which, after several years of attempts, managed to convince the United Nations to attribute an annual anniversary to these pollinating insects, protagonists in the protection of the environment, biodiversity and production agricultural. (1)

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), in promoting the initiative, already underlined in 2019 that:

– the decline of bee populations poses a serious threat to food security (food supply security) and human nutrition,

– the growing diffusion in the environment of large amounts of pesticides represents the most serious threat to the survival of pollinating insects,

– climate change, in addition to unsustainable agricultural practices (e.g. intensive monocultures), aggravate the loss of biodiversity and thus of pollinating insects. (2)

2) Pollination and food production, the IPBES report

IPBES extensionIntergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, had already published a report in 2016 highlighting the critical issues that bees and pollinating insects - as well as humans - are facing. ad memoriam, a few passages are recalled:

– Pollinating insects, which include more than 20.000 bee species, are mostly wild species. Flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, thrips, but also birds, bats and other vertebrates. Some bee species – such as the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana), some bumblebees, some stingless bees and some solitary bees – are extensively managed,

– the contribution of pollinators is essential for the production of food, but also medicines, biofuels (e.g. canola), fibers (e.g. cotton, flax), building materials (e.g. timber) and many other goods essential to human society,

– the survival and health of bees is threatened above all by the use of pesticides and herbicides which must therefore be drastically reduced, also by resorting to non-toxic alternatives. Theirs massive employment in conventional (ie non-organic) agriculture, exaggerated on crops GM herbicide resistant (almost all) drastically reduces food sources for pollinating insects, as well as causing Colony collapse disorder,

– further threats, in addition to the climate changecome from pathogens (e.g. Varroa destructor, Paenibacillus larvae e Melissococcus plutonius for American and European plague, respectively). (3)

Fig. 1 – Some managed and wild pollinators in the world (IPBES, 2016)

3) European Union, from the initiative 'Save the Bees and the Farmers!' to the 'Pact for Pollinators'

'Save the Bees and the Farmers!' ('Let's save the bees and the farmers!') – European citizens' initiative aimed at obtaining a ban on the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides in EU agriculture (4) - has collected over 1,2 million signatures in just a few months, more than 120% of those necessary to force the European Commission to evaluate the opportunity of a specific proposal for an EU regulation (and motivate the possible refusal).

When asked for rules however, the European Commission responded – in breach of its duties – with a communication describing the framework of action that the EU and the Member States should adopt to limit the decline of pollinators by 2030, taking into account the Initiative 'Save the Bees and the Farmers' and of EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. (5) No duty, words in the wind. Indeed, a real joke.

4) EFSA, risk assessment for pollinators of agrochemical products

EFSA has meanwhile published the 2023 revision of the guideline on how to assess the risk of agrochemicals on Apis mellifera and other species, in agricultural areas. (6) The now obsolete reg. EC 1107/09 in fact prescribes that 'plant protection' products can be approved only if it is demonstrated, through a specific risk assessment, that they do not have unacceptable effects on the environment, including non-target species such as bees. (7)

33% of pesticides still authorized in the Old Continent, however, has no risk assessment updated. Like the poisonous glyphosate, as we have seen. The application of the rules in force remains completely inadequate, and it is for this reason that already in 2021 it will European ombudsman had censored the Commission. And the proposed SUR regulation (Sustainable Use and Reduction of Pesticides) it was boycotted from the big ones LOBBY agricultural, in service and in conflict of interest with the monopolists of pesticides and seeds (Big Ag, Big 4).

5) IUCN Red List, the barometer of life

The international organization IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) since 1964 has offered a critical indicator of the health of biodiversity, a 'life barometer'. Thanks to participatory monitoring - to which its 1.400 members, governmental and non-governmental, and over 13.000 scientists and volunteer experts contribute - on 150.300 species, of which 42.100 are at risk of extinction.

IUCN Red List it provides – regionally and globally – information on the range, population size of individual species, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats and conservation actions. With the aim of informing i policy makers on the actions necessary to conserve nature. (8) In the European region:

– 1.965 bee species are identified as native, with an occurrence prior to 1.500 BC

– the Mediterranean (Italian, Iberian and Balkan peninsulas) represents the richest range of species, especially endemic ones,

– the Centre-South is the most threatened area, with 9% of species at certain risk of extinction and 55-65% at possible risk of threat/extinction which, however, cannot be estimated due to lack of scientific data, (9)

- in Italy, Apis mellifera and bumblebees (Bombus spp.) frequent more than 80% of the existing natural flora (herbaceous, shrubby and arboreal, food and non-food). Out of a total of 151 species, however, 21 are endangered and 13 near threatened. The frequent fires add to the risks already highlighted. (10)

Fig. 2 – Apis mellifera (close-up and colony) (Nieto et al., 2014; © S. Falk, P. Neumann)

6) FAO. Call for global protection of pollinating insects

A recent study of FAO and INRAE ​​(France) highlights the need to protect not only theApis mellifera (e Am ligustica, Am carnicaAm scutellata) – honey bees – but also all other species of the genus apis. That means Apis cerana, florea, dorsata, laboriosa, nigrocincta, andreniformis, binghami, breviligula, koschevnikovi, nuluensis. Which are also threatened by pesticides and other factors but receive less attention due to the absence of economic returns (eg honey production). (11)

Honey bees they tend to be stable (in some cases even increasing), but the other pollinators – which include species other than the genus apis (e.g. bumblebees, stingless bees, mason bees - they are in continuous decline. And their genetic diversity is also generally at risk (genus apis included).

7) FAO, initiatives on bees

FAO, together with the United Nations, provides numerous services for monitoring the health of bees and promoting their protection. Between these:

- Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture, developed from International Pollinator Initiative (IPI) where pollination is promoted as a fundamental process for natural ecosystems and man-managed agro-ecosystems. Thus was developed the Pollination Information Management System (PIMS), for better management of pollinators, (12)

– promotion of biodiversity conservation (including bees), by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), for more sustainable agriculture and food, (13)

– publications related to bees and pollinators, with regard to good beekeeping practices, responsible use of antibiotics (only when strictly necessary), pesticide control, disease control and much more. (14)

8) Italy. LIFE BEEadapt, 'Generation Honey'

BEEadapt – an Italian project, funded by the European LIFE program – started in September 2022, with a duration of 4 years. With the aim of establishing effective measures of adaptation of pollinators to the climate change, increase ecological connectivity and habitat heterogeneity by:

– the implementation of green infrastructure'pollinator-oriented' inside urban areas, peri-urban and rural, e

– the definition of systems of governance multilevel for the best management of the territories in favor of pollinators. (15)

'Honey Generation' is a two-year project promoted by Agri Network Service to improve the knowledge of the products of the hive and of theApis mellifera ligustica. Through the promotion of the national honey market and bee products, the aim is to promote beekeeping and thus also the protection of these insects. (16) The project was financed by MASAF, through the CAP, with a total budget of 17 million to support the sector. (17) Crumbs, compared to other livestock sectors, for a species without which there would be no agriculture, no food sovereignty and no forests (nor the ministry itself).

9) Provisional conclusions

World Days are not enough, bees are essential for the protection of environmental and food biodiversity but are still completely devoid of economic policies and interventions necessary for their protection.

#Save the bees and the farmers!

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Footnotes

(1) Republic of Slovenia. World Bee Day. https://www.gov.si/en/registries/projects/world-bee-day/

(2) FAO. Declining bee populations pose threats to global food security and nutrition. https://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1194910/icode/

(3) IPBES. The assessment report on pollinators, pollination and food production – Summary for policymakers. https://www.ipbes.net/sites/default/files/spm_deliverable_3a_pollination_20170222.pdf

(4) Dario Dongo, Guido Cortese. Let's Save The Bees! The reasons for the European citizens' initiative. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.06.19

(5) Communication from the Commission. Review of the EU Pollinators Initiative. A new pact for pollinators. COM(2023) 25 final. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52023DC0035

(6) EFSA (2023). Revised guidance on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees). EFSAJournal 21 (5): 7989, https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2023.7989

(7) Regulation (EC) 1107/2009, Annex II, Section 3.8.3

(8) IUCN. 2022. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-2 https://www.iucnredlist.org/

(9) Nieto et al. (2014). European Red List of Bees. Publication Office of the European Union https://bit.ly/3MKt2lZ

(10) Forty et al. (2010) IUCN Red List of threatened Italian bees. IUCN Italian Committee and Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea, Rome. http://www.iucn.it/pdf/Comitato_IUCN_Lista_Rossa_delle_Api_italiane_minacciate.pdf

(11) Halvorson et al. (2021). Protection of honeybees and other pollinators: one global study. Apidologies 52: 535-547, https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-021-00841-1

(12) FAO. FAO's Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable AgriculturE https://www.fao.org/pollination/en/

(13) FAO. Biodiversity for food security and nutrition https://www.fao.org/cgrfa

(14) FAO. The importance of bee-ing pollinators. https://www.fao.org/publications/home/news-archive/detail/the-importance-of-bee-ing-pollinators/en

(15) Life BEEadapt https://www.lifebeeadapt.eu/

(16) Generation Honey. Italian honey from Italian bees https://generazionehoney.it/

(17) MASAF. Lollobrigida: resources increased from 9 to 17 million for the bee sector, decree signed. https://www.politicheagricole.it/decreto_api Press release. 5.12.22

Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

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