Legislation and alternatives for pesticides to protect pollinators: a conversation with experts

Sep 24, 2021 | Uncategorized

In June, we hosted a webinar on the policies and legislation on pesticides together with FAO. Prior to the webinar, we asked registrants to send us any questions they might have about the topic. We asked the presenters, Prof. Parthiba Basu, Tsvetana Georgieva, Dr. Roberta Nocelli, Ivy Saunyama and Kim-Anh Tempelman to answer those questions that had not been covered in the webinar. We received questions in 3 domains. Questions about status, policies, and legislation of pesticides, questions about the scientific background of pesticides admission, and questions about a number of practical issues regarding (the use of) pesticides. This is part 2 of the questions covering questions on the scientific background of pesticides admission, and questions on the practical level. Part 1 covers status, policies and legislation

All answers reflect the opinion of the presenters, and not the opinion of the organisation they represent. Did you miss the webinar? You can watch the recording here.

Scientific background of pesticide admission

Does existing legislation around the world contemplate wild pollinators? Or what measures are necessary for the laws to represent and safeguard them?

Legislation to protect pollinators exists, but seems to mainly focus on domesticated pollinating species. FAO is currently undertaking a global review of legislation protecting pollinators from pesticides in preparation of a Global seminar on strengthening regulations to protect pollinators from pesticides that will be held on 23 to 24 February 2022. Recommendations to strengthen legislation to minimize the risks of pesticides to pollinators will follow.


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What parameters are used to carry out pesticide toxicity studies? Also, which bees are the focus of study and why? And which dissemination initiatives are stronger when we talk about pollination and environmental education? Are these initiatives being carried out?
In Brasil toxicity studies for registration are carried out with the Apis mellifera species, following the OECD protocols. Our current risk assessment framework is based on the framework developed by the US EPA, using the same parameters. However, there is great questioning about the representativeness of Apis mellifera in relation to more than 2000 species of Brazilian bees. We are part of the subgroup on non-Apis bees at ICPPR and are developing protocols for adults and stingless bee larvae to produce data on possible differences in sensitivity between species.

Is there a one site source for information of residue studies in water, soil, plants, food? How can countries establish their current status of pollinators and develop national pollinator programs?
At global scale: At present, no ‘one site source’ of information of such residue studies exists.
FAO is working with countries to assist them in developing their national pollinator strategies and initiatives. Each country’s pollination strategy should be catered to their national priorities so there is no one-size-fits-all guidelines.
For the current status of pollinators, FAO has a wide-variety of resources and practical guides that can be found on the Organization’s Global Action on Pollination Services website.

FAO’s Global Action on Pollination Services website has also done a stocktaking of Major Pollinators Initiatives around the world, which could be a good starting point for ideas on how to develop a national (or other scale) pollinator program.

For Europe:
Guidance documents on the assessment of fate and behavior of residues in soil and water and the nature of residues on food.
More information on the setting of maximum residues limits in the EU, including a link to the EU database on residues in food.

The European Commission has produced more than a dozen of guidance documents for citizens, local authorities and various business sectors on how to support pollinator conservation, which could be found in the EU Pollinator Information Hive. It could be also useful to consult the recent progress report on the EU Pollinators Initiative and, in particular, Actions 1 and 10. Further details on the EU Pollinators Initiative might be also useful.

How do you view the debate in the EU about approaches to assessing risk to bees (honeybee mortality threshold, BEEHAVE model versus ApisRAM, reliability of using honeybee test results as proxies for impacts on bumblebees and other wild bees)? How are pesticide use trends and trends in pesticide risk measured?
All information on how the EU protects bees from exposure to pesticides, including information on the ongoing review of the Bee Guidance document, can be accessed.
With regard to measuring risk from pesticide use, the European Commission has established a Harmonised Risk Indicator, based on statistics on PPP sales volumes.
At present, there is no Harmonised Risk Indicator based on PPP use data, due to the lack of reliable statistical data. This would be possible after the adoption of the Statistics on Agricultural Inputs and Outputs (SAIO) Regulation.

The practical level

Is there a list of Environmental-friendly chemicals that can be used for pest control?
The list of low-risk active substances, fulfilling the low-risk criteria provided for in Annex 2 to Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, can be retrieved from the Pesticides Database, where a search function “Type” can be applied to ‘filter’ the updated list of low-risk substances. Furthermore, the Commission has elaborated a list of potentially low-risk substances which are subject to the active substances review programme but for which the decision to allocate the low-risk status has not yet been validated. These candidate low-risk substances could benefit from a prioritisation approach by Member States when they authorise PPPs containing these candidate low-risk substances, anticipating the wish to shift towards more sustainable plant protection products.

Most EU Member States provide, in a similar way, information on PPPs authorised in their countries in their PPP registers, which are publicly available. Very often, these PPP registers also contain the PPP labels, where the active substance(s) contained, authorisation conditions and any risk mitigation measures are also included.
Selection of PPPs to use for control of specific pests is the responsibility of PPP professional users. One of the IPM general principles (number 5) states that the pesticides applied shall be as specific as possible for the targeted pest, and shall have the least side effects on human health, non-target organisms and the environment. As far as the implementation of IPM general principles is a legal obligation for PPP professional users, this is an aspect to be considered in the decision-making process. It is part of the proper use of PPPs and thus subject to official controls and verification by the relevant authorities.
With regard to the management of ecosystems, Guidelines on this topic can be found on the EU Pollinator Information Hive.

What would you recommend to investigate suspected apiary poisoning cases? Are there any guidelines or protocols available to the public that can be used as a reference(s)?
The US has guidelines to investigate suspected pesticide-related incidents. There is no apiary poisoning monitoring mechanism in India. In Brazil, a project was developed by the University of Sao Paulo, in partnership with companies. It is called Colmeia Viva. It has a toll-free number where bee mortality cases can be reported. A multidisciplinary team assesses the cases and, if necessary, performs waste collection and analysis. The data obtained annually is made available to the Brazilian government and to the public on the website. Unfortunately, the site is in Portuguese language exclusively.

What methods can help farmers control pests, and what are the methods to increase and protect the pollinators in the agriculture fields?
Pest control needs systemic interventions- which essentially is a basket of interventions- from inter-cropping, seed treatments/selection to improving populations of biological control agents at the farm, improving biological health of soil etc. and creations of suitable habitats in the landscape beyond the farms. Non-chemical plant based treatments are available for many pests. This has been a very successful experience in India. There are also examples of similar experiments in other global regions too.
Creating wild flower strips (Agri-environment schemes) near the field margin is a standard strategy practiced in many countries. As our own study has shown recently- certain horticultural crops in the agri-landscape can also contribute to a healthy plant-pollinator interaction. Significant reduction or stopping use of chemical pesticides is also crucial.