Syngenta and Bayer CropScience try to unlock EU stalemate on bee health
The two very active CropScience companies have revealed an action plan to help to unlock the EU stalemate on bee health. Maybe, you ask yourself what has this to do with textile aspects. Well, the pesticide is also applied to cotton!
The EU Commission recently failed to reach an agreement with Member State on an appropriate response to EFSA’s report on the theoretical risk to bee health from neonicotinoid pesticides. The action plan of the two companies is now to present valuable insights into the area of bee health, whereas a ban on neonicotinoids would simply close the door to understanding the problem, states John Atkin, Syngenta’s COO, Chief Operating Officer. Banning these products would not save a single hive and it is time that everyone focused on addressing the real causes of declining bee populations, he added and continued that the plan is based on the company’s confidence in the safety of our products and its historical commitment to improve the environment for bees”.
His counterpart Dr. Rüdiger Scheitze, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer CropScience and Head of Strategy an Business Management pointed to the fact that even though all evidence points to various parasites and diseases being the true cause of poor bee health, we are keen to do everything in our po0wer to give consumers confidence in our products. The significant lack of agreement between the EU Commission and the Member States needs a bold plan in order that farmers in Europe can continue to produce the high quality affordable food, in a way that promotes the health of bees and other pollinators. We believe that such a pan as this can be delivered.
The key features of the action plan are to significantly scale up the creation of pollen rich, flowering field margins across the EU to provide essential habitat and nutrition for bees. This would build on Syngenta’s ten year operation pollinator programme which has demonstrated that these margins dramatically increase pollinator populations, including honeybees and it would address one of the main factors identified by the Eu Commission in the decline in bee health.
Further to support for the establishment of a comprehensive field monitoring programme for bee health, including the detection of neonicotinoid crop protection products – particularly in maize, oilseed rape, sunflower and – here is the textile aspect – cotton. The comprehensive programme, following the guidelines for surveillance projects by the EU Reference Laboratory for honey bee health, shall be established and the current monitoring work of the EU reference laboratories on bee health, supported by national bee institutes, should be reinforced and extended. Within this new scope the detection of chemicals from crop protection, particularly neoncotinoids, and veterinary products should be included.
The third point is to mandatory implement strict measures to mitigate the exposure risk to bees; these are currently already recommended by the manufacturers and effectively applied by most farmers as good agricultural practice. Here, among other facts, Bayer CropScience may come into the picture with its recently developed “SweepAir”, a new air-cleaning technology for maize sowing equipment offering a significant improvement in comparison to standard technologiy. First field tests with the prototype indicate a dust reduction well above 95 %.
The fourth point is investment and implementation, at the earliest possible opportunity, of new technologies which further reduce dust emissions from the planting of seed treated with the development of new solutions for the main factors impacting bee health, which include parasites and viruses, an establishment of area-wide long term pilot studies which demonstrate their effectiveness.
As neutral observer, I consider the statements of both sides as rather controversial. First of all, scientists could not determine the real cause of the decreases in bee population. Secondly, the companies are stating that they do everything possible to protect pollinators, needed also for the development of the plants, from negative effects of pesticides. In my eyes this raises the question, have they done enough and do they reveal openly the results of their research? Now such programmes have to be enhanced and extended. The action plan provides also the assistance of the EU, respectively the specialised laboratories. This means also that there is a cost sharing implied in the future research between the companies and public institutions. On the other hand the public institutions are also the surveying bodies of the companies, and what about compliance rules applicable? If I understand correctly, there are two sides to the medal and both want to shine, hopefully to the benefit of the bees and pollinators, as well as to human beings, finally eating or wearing the final products!