European Food Safety Authority to assess the impact of pesticides and GMOs on bee health

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is assessing the impacts of pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on bee health. A task force under coordination of Emerging Risks Unit (ERU) of EFSA submitted its inventory on its activities on bees on October 30, 2012.

Beekeepers in Europe have been reporting unusual decline in bee population in many countries of Europe like France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain for last 10-15 years. Similar decline has also been reported in North America since 2005. The decline has been characterized by sudden loss of bee colonies; a phenomena named ‘colony collapse disorder (CCD)’ by American scientists. Pesticides like Imidacloprid and GMOs have often been held responsible for CCD.
Bees in general and predominantly honey bees play very important role in pollination of various cultivated and wild plants. According to the inventory submitted, 80 percent of the food crops cultivated in EU depend on bees for pollination. Besides pollination, bees are also the source of important products like honey and wax.

The task force which comprised of members from scientific units of pesticides, animal health and welfare, GMOs, plant health and scientific assessment support of EFSA was formed in May 2012 as a strategy to tackle the declining bee population in European countries. The task force, under the supervision of ERU, studied the individual and combined impacts of pesticides and GMOs on bee health. It reviewed a total of 355 scientific outputs in form of research papers, reports and videos on the topic till September 2012. More than 300 of these outputs were about impacts of pesticide active substances on bee health.
The inventory report acknowledges the studies which point out the possibility of impacts of pesticides and GMOs behind CCDs. It, however, found the evidences weak and called for further research and field trials for more concrete evidences. The task force will present its final report in May 2013 which will recommend the future course of research on bee health.