Bee deaths are more important than many think – we need to take them seriously

It can sometimes seem that almost every day or week in the European Parliament has been dedicated to one issue or another. But that isn’t to say that the issues covered aren’t important. On 31st May, for example, we had World No Tobacco Day – a literal issue of life or death, with tobacco killing 650,000 people each year in Europe. Recently, we have seen other important and worthy events International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and European Co-operatives Week.

Sometimes, these events raise awareness issues which might not seem important to many people, but in fact can have a huge impact on our lives or our planet. Last week was dedicated to just such an issue: the European Week of the Bee and Pollination was held in the European Parliament to highlight just how important bees are, to both the environment and agriculture.

Why is this issue so crucial? Bees in Europe, in particular the European honeybee, are dying. It is difficult to know exactly how fast bee populations are shrinking without better data from across the EU, though some reports indicate numbers have dropped by 50% or 80%. This is a huge problem for us: over four out of five plant species in Europe are believed to depend on pollination by bees – including over three quarters of our food production.

In November, the European Parliament called for urgent action to halt bee deaths. This followed findings from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), which showed that the bee decline across Europe was due to a combination of factors, including pesticides used by farmers, climate change, parasites and viruses, amongst others. EFSA also found that each country in the EU had a different system for monitoring their bee colonies; as bees are unlikely to respect national borders, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of bee mortality across Europe. There is a clear need for action at European level.

Last year, I asked the European Commission, with my colleague Dan Jørgensen MEP, whether they were aware of the particular threat of ‘neonicotinoid’ pesticides to bee populations, and whether they would ban its use. So I was concerned that, in Parliament’s November report, right-wing groups (including UK Conservative MEPs) managed to block any call for action on these pesticides, despite new evidence that these are particularly harmful to bees. Labour MEPs will continue to campaign for this – particularly as the Common Agricultural Policy is reviewed in 2013.

“Albert Einstein once said that without bees, man would live no more than four years,” said my Socialist colleague Csaba Tabajdi MEP, Parliament’s rapporteur on the bees report. What is certain is that both for the sake of our environment and for the world’s food supply, we must take this issue seriously, and not allow vested interests to put us all at risk.

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  1. Animals Are Our Teachers – Muslims are advised by their mentors to learn lessons. Example, Imam Hazrat Ali “Be like a bee; anything he eats is clean, anything he drops is sweet and any branch he sits upon does not break.”
    as Animals Are Members of Communities and the Family of God therefore in need of protection. Each and every creature on earth has, as its birth-right, a share in all the natural resources. In other words, each animal is a tenant-in-common on this Planet with human species.

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