‘EU initiatives to protect wild pollinators too weak to bear fruit’

A report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) on July 9 stated that EU measures did not ensure the protection of wild pollinators.

The report described the biodiversity strategy to 2020 as “largely ineffective in preventing their [pollinators] decline”.

It described how EU policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), do not include specific requirements for the protection of wild pollinators.

The Pollinators Initiative was launched in 2018, but it was found to have little effect on halting the decline according to the ECA and needed better management to achieve its objectives.

Speaking on the decline, Samo Jereb, the member of the ECA who was responsible for the report, stated: “Pollinators play an essential role in plant reproduction and ecosystem functions, and their decline should be seen as a major threat to our environment, agriculture and quality-food supply.

The EU initiatives taken so far to protect wild pollinators have unfortunately been too weak to bear fruit.

The ECA stated that pollinators such as bees, wasps, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and beetles all contribute to increasing the quantity and quality of our food.

However, wild pollinator numbers have declined in recent decades and the ECA stated that intensive agriculture and the use of pesticides were some of the reasons for their decline.

EU’s strategies aren’t specific

In a press release, the ECA stated: “The auditors found that the EU’s dedicated framework does not really help to protect wild pollinators.

“Although no single action in the EU’s biodiversity strategy to 2020 was specifically aimed at reversing the decline in wild pollinators, four of its targets may indirectly benefit pollinators. Yet the commission’s own mid-term review found that for three of these targets, progress had been insufficient or non-existent.”

The review carried out by the ECA identified pollination as “one of the most degraded elements in ecosystems across the EU”.

The ECA also stated that “the Pollinators Initiative has not led to major changes in key policies”.

It went on to describe how other EU policies promoting biodiversity do not include requirements that directly protect wild pollinators.

“The commission has not made use of the options available in terms of biodiversity conservation measures in any programme, including the Habitats Directive, Natura 2000 and the LIFE programme.

As far as the CAP is concerned, the auditors consider that it is part of the problem, not part of the solution. The greening and cross-compliance requirements under the CAP have not been effective in halting the decline of biodiversity on farmland, as the EU auditors concluded in a recent report.

The report also stated that current EU legislation does not offer “adequate measures to protect wild pollinators”.

“The legislation currently in force includes safeguards to protect honeybees, but risk assessments are still based on guidance which is out-dated and poorly aligned with legal requirements and the latest scientific knowledge.”

The ECA pointed out that “the EU framework has allowed member states to continue using pesticides thought to be responsible for massive honeybee losses”.

The report outlined that between 2013 and 2019, 206 emergency authorisations were granted for the use of three neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin), even though their application has been restricted since 2013, and they have been strictly banned for outdoor use since 2018.

IPM

Another report by the EU auditors found that integrated pest management (IPM) practices could help reduce the use of neonicotinoids, but that the EU had made little progress so far in enforcing their use.

In Ireland, neonicotinoid seed treatments for use on cereal crops were banned in 2018 and their use was prohibited from 2019.

Irish farmers have been largely proactive in the implementation of IPM on their farms and take part in an IPM survey under cross-compliance inspections.

The future

Looking to the future, the ECA recommends that specific measures for wild pollinators are assessed in the 2021 follow-up actions and measures for the EU biodiversity strategy to 2030.

The ECA also recommended that there be better integrate action to protect wild pollinators into EU policy instruments addressing biodiversity conservation and agriculture and that the EU improves the protection of wild pollinators in the pesticide risk-assessment process.