Alarming decline of pollinators puts food security at risk

One in ten bee and butterfly species in Europe are on the verge of extinction

Photo: EU A beehive at the Brdo Castle, Slovenia.

One in ten bee and butterfly species in Europe are on the verge of extinction, and one third of them are in decline. Pollinating insects are crucial for the functioning of ecosystems, our food security, for medicines and our wellbeing, the Commission warns.

A report on the implementation of the first-ever EU Pollinators Initiative, which the Commission adopted in 2018 to address the decline of wild pollinating insects, indicates that significant progress has been made, but challenges remain in tackling the various drivers of decline.

The analysis shows that the initiative remains a useful policy tool that allows the EU, Member States and stakeholders to tackle the decline of pollinators.

By the end of last year, more than thirty actions have been implemented across three priority areas. They are improving knowledge of pollinator decline, tackling the causes of pollinator decline, engaging the public and promoting cooperation to halt the decline.

The Commission launched as well a Pollinator Park – an interactive digital tool to raise awareness about the dangerous decline of pollinators and mobilise global action to address it.

Under the EU Pollinators initiative has been developed an EU-wide scheme monitoring pollinators' species to better understand the status of their populations and the causes of their decline. It will soon be deployed on the ground throughout the EU. The Commission has established a dedicated pollinator-information system and launched a series of tailored research initiatives.

Efforts need to be stepped up, however, to address in particular the loss of habitats in farming landscapes and the impacts of pesticides.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan  set specific objectives to address this, such as expanding protected areas and restoring ecosystems, promoting  organic agriculture, restoring high-diversity landscape features on farmland, and significantly reducing the use of pesticides and other environmental pollutants harmful to pollinators.

The new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change and strengthened ambition on climate neutrality will help to mitigate impacts of climate change on pollinators.

EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius commented that the alarming decline of insects that pollinate crops and wild plants puts food security at risk and threatens our survival and that of nature as a whole.

The EU has put in place specific policy tools to address their decline, mobilised cross-sectoral action and made significant progress in pollinator monitoring, he recalled adding that the current report shows that “we clearly need to do more to fight the main drivers of their steep decline”.

According to him, further mainstreaming of pollinator conservation into the Common Agricultural Policy and pesticide legislative framework will be critical.”

EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides underscored that “protecting our pollinators will remain a crucial ambition under the European Green Deal and will contribute to achieving the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy, including a 50% reduction in the use and risk of chemical pesticides”.

“When we approve or remove active substances for plant protection from the market, we always take into account the importance of ensuring a high level of protection of bees and other pollinators,” she said.

Agriculture and food security heavily rely on pollinators, their worrying decline needs to be further addressed and as highlighted in the report, efforts need to be stepped up regarding the loss of habitats in farming landscapes and the impact of pesticides, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski pointed out.

He urged that the future CAP, in line with the Green Deal objectives, shall largely contribute to this by introducing higher environmental and climate ambition.

For instance, to receive funds, farmers will have to dedicate farming land to biodiversity,  Commissioner Wojciechowski stressed adding that in the field of research and innovation, one of the priorities is to find alternatives to the use of pesticides.

In the second half of this year, the EU executive will launch consultation activities to collect views and more comprehensive evidence from experts, stakeholders and citizens for the possible improvement of the initiative, identifying further measures for the implementation of its long-term objectives. The Commission will take into account the feedback received and consider the scope for revising the EU Pollinators Initiative.

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