Bee safety of pesticides

In the next 40 years, it is projected that the world population will grow from seven to almost ten billion people. Finding solutions to increase yields and to protect pollinators is critical to food production and agricultural sustainability.

Bees and other pollinating insects have an important role to play when it comes to crop pollination, so that protecting crops and ensuring bee safety is not an ‘either-or’ option, they need to go hand in hand.

Bayer works hard to prevent any risk from pesticides to bees: with extensive testing, risk assessment and stewardship  measures; by helping to bring beekeepers and farmers closer together; and by conducting leading-edge research to optimize crop pollination.

Crop protection products are among the most heavily regulated goods in any industry. They are as strictly regulated as pharmaceutical products and also require extensive environmental safety testing to ensure that they will not pose any unreasonable risks to wildlife, plants and the environment. Each new crop protection product requires many years of testing to meet the highest standards of safety at a cost of hundreds of millions of euros, before it can be used.

So how confident can we be that a new crop protection product will not harm bees?

poduct lifecycle of a pesticide

Today’s system of bee testing involves a series of stepwise processes that work together to ensure the safe use of registered products to honey bees following modern agricultural practices.

It begins with lower-tiered laboratory tests and moves to higher-tiered field studies, where necessary, to evaluate potential risks. Under this system, products that fail to meet these rigorous criteria will not see the light of commercial reality.

Bee Safety Testing of Pesticides

Finally, the adoption of label use restrictions, often supplemented by enhanced stewardship efforts, further minimizes the chance of unwanted exposures.

The relatively low number of harmful honey bee incidences, as reported in incident monitoring programs established for instance in Canada, Germany, the UK and the USA, is a testament to the success of these important mitigation practices.

Example Germany de_DE

Number of incidents recorded per year: 100 to 150 cases (affecting 9-17 hives on average). With an approximate number of hives in Germany of more than 800,000, this translates to ±0.1-0.3 % of German honey bee colonies affected (but not necessarily killed) by an incident with a pesticide.

Example UK en_GB

Absolute numbers of pesticide-related bee incidents have been extremely low for many years.
In fact, there have been almost no confirmed incidents involving honey bees and the approved use of an agricultural pesticide since 2003.

Safety before sales!!

Read more on the bee safety testing of pesticides here: LINK

Yet how well are we safeguarding all bee species with current safety testing of crop protection products?

This question is posed by regulatory authorities, scientists and environmentalists alike and is at the very core of sustainable agriculture practices that seek to balance crop productivity and environmental considerations.

Efforts to create testing systems that account for the vast diversity of bee species are ongoing with bumble bees, mason bees and leafcutter bees. The process is challenging, and progress demands all the knowledge and creativity from experts around the world.

Read more on this topic and Bayer’s contributions: LINK

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