21 October 2022

Bees rejoice: the popular proposal for a EU law reaches one million signatures

Lo striscione esposto dagli attivisti di PAN Network poco dopo la notizia della validità del milione di firme raccolte nell'ambito dell'Iniziativa popolare europea per vietare i pesticidi chimici entro il 2035. FOTO: Pan Europe.

The EU Commission has confirmed the validity of the signatures of the European popular initiative bill “Save bees and farmers”. Now the European institutions will have to express  on the request to ban synthetic pesticides, responsible for the collapse in the number of pollinators, by 2035

by Emanuele Isonio


It should be clarified immediately: there is still a long way to go to arrive at a binding law that, throughout the EU, once and for all prohibits the use of chemical pesticides responsible for the collapse of populations of bees and other pollinating insects. However, the one decreed in recent days by the European Commission is at the same time a fundamental step on that path. Brussels has in fact certified the validity of the signatures collected, during 2021, by PAN-Europe (Pesticide Action Network). A continental network that has brought together over 200 organizations including environmental associations, biodistricts and operators in the agricultural and food sector. Objective: to launch a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). A legal instrument, provided for by the Treaties of the European Union, which allows citizens of the Member States to directly influence Community policy.

The requests of the signatories

Within it, the proposal, called “Let’s save bees and farmers”, contains three requests:

  • Progressively eliminate synthetic pesticides from 80% European agriculture by 2030 to zero them 5 years later.
  • Restore natural ecosystems in agricultural areas by making agriculture a vector for the recovery of biodiversity.
  • Reform the agricultural sector by giving priority to small-scale, diversified and sustainable agriculture, spreading a rapid increase in agroecological and biological practices and allowing independent training and research of farmers.

“The result achieved is a strong democratic signal for the EU and for national decision-makers who must take note of the will of the citizens and move away from toxic pesticides,” commented Martin Dermine, spokesperson for the popular proposal and executive director of PAN Europe. “Farmers and science have shown that agroecology can feed the world without chemicals. The time has come for our politicians to stop listening to agri-food and start working for the future of our children “.

Over half of the signatures come from Germany

Reaching one million signatures now requires the European Commission to take a stand on the proposal. And the European Parliament will have to hold a public hearing on the matter. Although the popular proposal does not have the power to impose anything on the Community institutions, it is nevertheless a particularly significant achievement. To date, only 6 other ICEs have in fact managed to obtain the number of signatures required to make them valid. EU rules establish that the million subscribers belong to at least a quarter of the member states. In the case of the PAN Europe initiative, all 27 EU countries were involved.

But for the exploit the sensational results obtained in Germany (where over 526 thousand signatures were collected), the Netherlands (almost 100 thousand) and France (almost 90 thousand) were decisive. In Italy, 43,400 citizens signed the initiative.

Country Statements of support Threshold Percentage
Austria 22,949 13,500 169.99%
Belgium 81,203 15,750 515.57%
Bulgaria 3,915 12,750 30.71%
Croatia 1,402 8,250 16.99%
Cyprus 741 4,500 16.47%
Czechia 9,424 15,750 59.83%
Denmark 16,457 9,750 168.79%
Estonia 541 4,500 12.02%
Finland 3,399 9,750 34.86%
France 89,647 55,500 161.53%
Germany 526,501 72,000 731.25%
Greece 4,547 15,750 28.87%
Hungary 20,705 15,750 131.46%
Ireland 6,982 8,250 84.63%
Italy 43,394 54,750 79.26%
Latvia 6,488 6,000 108.13%
Lithuania 518 8,250 6.28%
Luxembourg 5,249 4,500 116.64%
Malta 3,291 4,500 73.13%
Netherlands 97,593 19,500 500.48%
Poland 16,074 38,250 42.02%
Portugal 8,486 15,750 53.88%
Romania 24,829 24,000 103.45%
Slovakia 2,483 9,750 25.47%
Slovenia 1,564 6,000 26.07%
Spain 43,947 40,500 108.51%
Sweden 12,644 15,000 84.29%
Total number of signatories 1,054,973
In 25 years, the toxicity of pesticides has doubled

“Collecting 1 million valid signatures during the Covid pandemic is a strong signal for a transition to agriculture that respects the climate and bees” underlines the Austrian Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, deputy spokesperson for Ice. “In many countries of the ‘ EU, ministries of agriculture seem to have unhealthy faith in agribusiness or too close relations. Therefore, they avoid changes that would free our food system from addiction to chemicals ”.

Despite the reluctance of various EU countries, the need to block the use of pesticides that damage bees and other pollinators has over time been confirmed both at a scientific level and by international organizations. For example, a study by the University of Koblenz and Landau in Germany showed that, in the last 25 years, the toxicity of 381 pesticides to bees, other pollinating insects and aquatic invertebrates has more than doubled, despite the fact that German research has confirmed a decrease in the overall use of pesticides. However, neonicotinoids, insecticides chemically related to nicotine, particularly toxic for bees, have increased. Similarly, the use of pyrethroids has also grown, which particularly damage aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans, mayflies and dragonflies.

“Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides“, explained Ralf Schulz, professor of ecosystem resilience at the University of Koblenz and lead author of the study. “They are then absorbed by the plants and travel through their tissues. Many pollinators are in fact closely correlated with the target species that pesticides aim to eradicate. The spraying of crops with neonicotinoids therefore also causes the death of bees”.

90% of the world’s food depends on bees
The consequence of all this risks having serious consequences, not only on the environmental front but also on the food safety and health of agricultural land. “Three out of four food crops in the world depend to some extent on bees and other pollinators. However, the die-off of these insects is growing. Yet the global food economy is showing a significant increase in the demand for pollination services, especially in developing countries, “the FAO recalled on the last World Bee Day last May. “Without bees, a large number of wild and cultivated plant species would no longer exist. As many as 71 of the approximately 100 species of crops that provide 90% of food in the world are in fact pollinated by bees ”explain the technicians of the UN Food Agency.
api insetti impollinatori servizi ecosistemici vantaggi agricoltura

Bees and pollinating insects in general play a crucial role in our food security and ecosystems. Here, 5 of the “services” guaranteed by their presence. SOURCE: FAO Archive.