POLLINATORS CENTRAL TO AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY, EU SAYS AT LAUNCH OF AMBITIOUS CONSERVATION STRATEGY
The European Union has launched a major initiative to safeguard pollinators with the aim of promoting agricultural productivity and food security in the 27-member bloc
Called, “A New Deal for Pollinators,” the campaign aims to reverse what officials have described as an “alarming decline” in the populations of wild pollinating insects in Europe.
According to the European Commission, one in three bee, butterfly and hoverfly species “are disappearing” in the EU.
The plan ties in with a citizens’ initiative to “save bees and farmers” and it outlines actions that could be taken by the EU and member states to reverse this decline by 2030.
The issue is critical to agricultural productivity, because around four-fifths of crops and wild flowering plants depend on animal pollination.
In a statement the European Commission described pollinator loss as “one of the largest threats to EU nature, human well-being and food security” because it compromises “sustainable long-term agricultural production”.
“Today’s geopolitical context has further strengthened the need to make our food system more resilient, including through protecting and restoring pollinating insects,” the Commission added.
The new initiative comes on top of the European Commission’s proposal for a Nature Restoration Law and is part, the Commission said, of the Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal.
Janusz Wojciechowski, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, said that farmers experienced “first-hand” the effects of climate change and loss of biodiversity.
“We know that the decline of pollinators is a direct risk for agricultural productivity,” he added. “There cannot be long-term food security without greater sustainability.
“I acknowledge and praise the daily hard work from farmers that strive to feed us while complying with the most ambitious environmental requirements in the world.
“CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] Strategic Plans will support them in their transition to greener practices.”
The centrepiece of the revised strategy, which was unveiled in late January, is improving the conservation of pollinators and tackling reasons why they are declining.
This will be achieved by, for example, improving species and habitat conservation, with the European Commission set to identify particular pollinators that member states should protect.
The European Commission and member states will also develop a plan for ecological corridors or “buzz lines” that pollinators can use.
Another approach will be to restore habitats within agricultural landscapes by promote pollinator-friendly farming through the CAP.
The Commission additionally wants to cut the harm to pollinators by pesticides. Its strategy includes the promotion of new ways to determine how toxic pesticides are to pollinators, such as by analysing harm that may not actually kill the pollinators.
Also included in the new strategy are legal requirements to introduce integrated pest management, which is a long-term approach to reduce the harm from pests by modifying habitats, using pest-resistance varieties and changing cultural practices. Such approaches may reduce the need for pesticide use.
Integrated pest management also includes biological control, where one organism preys on and limits numbers of the pest species.
“As the excessive use of pesticides is a key driver of pollinator loss, reducing the risk and use of pesticides as per the Commission’s Sustainable Use of Pesticides proposal will be critical,” the Commission said.
A range of other threats to pollinators are also included in the Commission’s plan, including cutting light pollution and promoting the interests of pollinators in urban areas.
The Commission also wants improved understanding of what is causing pollinator numbers to fall, and what the causes and consequences of this are likely to be. As part of this, key pollinator areas will be mapped by 2025.
EU member states will be helped to develop national strategies to safeguard pollinators, while national governments and the EU will act to raise awareness of the issues.
Now, the European Commission will ask the European Council and the European Parliament to endorse its new strategy.
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