26th Oct 2016

Big pharma should combat bee decline, MEPs say

  • Bees have been dying in large numbers across the continent (Photo: Brad Smith)

The European Parliament has called on the pharmaceutical industry to play a role in finding a solution to halt the rapid decline of the honey bee.

“The European Parliament calls on the commission to increase the development of veterinary medical products for current EU honey-bee-disease-causing agents," says a non-binding resolution passed Tuesday (15 November).

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The resolution also stresses the "need to offer the pharmaceutical industry incentives for the development of new medicinal products designed to combat bee diseases.”

“Albert Einstein once said that without bees, man would live no more than four years,” said Hungarian Socialist Csaba Tabajdi, who drafted the resolution.

An estimated 84 percent of plant species and 76 percent of food production in Europe depends on pollination by bees.

The resolution also called for information gathering and data collection, as the exact causes of the decline are yet to be determined.

There are “more than a dozen factors, ranging from declines in flowering plants and the use of memory-damaging insecticides to the world-wide spread of pests and air pollution,” said a recent report by the UN Environment Programme.

It noted that “increasing use of chemicals in agriculture, including 'systemic insecticides' and those used to coat seeds, is being found to be damaging or toxic to bees.”

But some are angry that the parliament is asking the pharmaceutical industry to look into the matter.

“Research has shown that pesticides made by the pharmaceutical industry are a cause for the weakening of bees. But instead of asking them to stop producing those pesticides, the European Parliament now asks that same industry to develop medicines against the effects of their pesticides,” says Bas Eickhout, Dutch green MEP.

He presented the house with an alternative resolution asking for a moratorium on the use of harmful pesticides, which was backed by a quarter of the house.


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