Didier Guillaume, French Minister for Agriculture and Food, and François de Rugy, French Minister for Environment, recently announced that they were putting in place a working group to strengthen the measures taken to protect bees and other pollinating insects from the negative impacts of Varroa mites and phytopharmaceutical products.
In June of last year, the two ministries asked the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), that is in charge of sanitary and environmental evaluation, to come up with proposals to change the regulatory framework for protecting pollinators. The agency recently presented its findings, accompanied by a series of recommendations to reduce the exposure of bees and other pollinizing insects to phytopharmaceutical products.
A working group will be put in place very soon by the two ministries. It will bring together all parties involved, and will aim to define measures to take to limit the risks for pollinators, while taking into account the technical constraints of farmers. These efforts are part of a continuation of initiatives that have already been taken by the French government in favor of protecting pollinators and fighting against the decline of domestic bee colonies and of wild pollinators.
While nearly 80% of plant species depend on pollinating insects such as bees, declines and weakening of colonies have been observed for the past several years. According to an investigation undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture, the average mortality level reached 29% during the 2017-2018 winter season (against an average 10% naturally). This raised level of mortality can be explained by a variety of causes, including Varroa infection and some use of certain chemical products.
As part of its efforts to fight bee mortality, France has renewed its request to the European Commission to quickly update its risk evaluation methods for pollinators to approve pesticides. Toxicity for bees must be taken into account to improve the level of protection of pollinators, as soon as analytical methods permit it.