EU Acts to Stall Decline of Insect Pollinators

A honeybee collects pollen from a male garden asparagus plant. (Piet Beurskens)

(CN) – With 1 in 10 pollinating insect species on the verge of extinction and a third of bee and butterfly species in decline, the European Commission on Friday issued a swarm of plans to protect creatures vital to our own survival.

“Pollinators are an excellent ecosystem health check. If they are not doing well, we can be sure biodiversity in general is not doing well and this is bad news,” environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said in a statement. “We are already doing a lot to stop the decline of pollinators in the EU Natura 2000 network of protected areas. But with the worrying status of pollinating insects, particularly of bees and butterflies, it is clear we have to step up our game. This is what this initiative is all about.”

The commission plans to monitor pollinating insects both to assess the condition of their populations and to try and determine why and what is threatening them in the first place. Once the cause of the threat is determined, the commission says it will be able to figure out how to protect pollinators going forward.

In a statement, agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said, “Our farmers’ future and the well-being of our rural communities depend on healthy ecosystems with rich biodiversity. The tireless work of insect pollinators enables that richness. While their work comes for free, it is invaluable in maintaining the flow of goods and services from nature that underpin our existence. We need to act urgently to stop their decline.”

Health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis meanwhile noted EU lawmakers this month – acting on the commission’s suggestion – banned the outdoor use of three neonicotinoid pesticides which biologists believe are harmful to bees in particular.

The commission said that in the EU alone, four in five crops and wildflower species depend on insect pollination for their survival. Nearly $18 billion in agricultural output is directly dependent on pollinators, as is a large portion of our food supply.

While the commission says short-term actions will remain implemented until 2020, the full initiative is expected to last through 2030 and will be modified as conditions and discoveries warrant.

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