Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted on 20 November overwhelmingly in favour of providing 'recovery zones' in European farmland to help rebuild the region's declining bee population. The resolution, which was passed by 485 votes to 13, follows fears that European food production could be threatened if there were fewer bees to pollinate crops of fruit and vegetables. So far this year, German bee populations have dropped by a quarter and British beekeepers are expected to lose up to 10% of their colonies this winter.
The population has been endangered by long distance transportation of bees between countries as well as increased use of pesticides, which can weaken the insects' immune systems. The development of genetically-modified crops and the spread of fungal infections and many viruses also contributed to the decline.
MEPs hope their directive - set up under the Common Agricultural Policy - will spur the EU executive to help to set up patches of farmland planted with pollen and nectar-rich plants to act as 'recovery zones' for ailing insects. It would also fund research into the parasites and diseases which are harming bee populations, provide financial aid to apiaries with infected colonies, and combat ineffective pollination by banning pesticide treatment while crops are in flower.
Struan Stevenson, the Scottish Conservative MEP said: "We must invest more into bee research to establish the exact causes of the shrinking bee population so that we can urgently put measures in place to combat the decline."
Helen Warrell, Financial Times, www.ft.com