Farmers's groups, researchers, NGOs and beekeepers to form partnership to tackle bee health

Beekeepers, scientists, policy-makers and other relevant parties are to set up a European bee partnership that could transform the way bee health is assessed in the EU.

The pledge was the main outcome of a scientific meeting held in Brussels on 27 June titled "Towards a European Bee Partnership" that was attended by more than 120 delegates from scientific organisations, EU bodies, researchers, beekeeper and farmers’ groups, and NGOs.

Simon More, who chairs EFSA’s MUST-B working group on risks to bees, said: "One clear theme from today’s meeting is that there is a willingness to collaborate on the part of all the groups represented here.

"We have a clear way forward: EFSA will facilitate the establishment of a group to make the European Bee Partnership happen. But this is just the beginning. Many more discussions will be needed to make this partnership as broad and representative as possible."

He added: "This has to be a partnership of stakeholders for stakeholders, a partnership of the willing founded on mutual trust. That is the only way it can be successful."

The main focus of the meeting, held as part of the European Parliament’s annual Week of Bees and Pollination, was on how to improve the collection and sharing of data on bees.

Bees and some other pollinators are in decline with neonicotinoids cited by some studies as a cause. Bee disease and habitat loss are also among possible causes.

Mariya Gabriel MEP, chair of the European Parliament’s Working Group on Apiculture and Bee Health, said in an opening statement: "The spirit of Bee Week has always been to call for greater collaboration among all sectors and levels. The presence of so many stakeholders and experts today is heartening; your efforts and valuable contributions will be decisive in making this event a success.

"However, our goal must extend beyond Bee Week. It is essential that beekeepers, scientists, NGOs, manufacturers, farmers, veterinarians and the EU institutions continue, in the long term, to pool their efforts to achieve better data sharing and management, strengthen our collaboration and enable a more robust assessment of bee health in the EU."

She added that EFSA’s work in the area of bee health and its multi-disciplinary expertise would be of great value in steering such a project.

EFSA co-hosted the meeting with the farmers’ association COPA-COGECA, the European Professional Beekeepers Association (EPBA), Bee Life (European Beekeeping Coordination) and the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA).

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