Assessing the use of crop protection products for potential risks to honey bees
Honeybees are an important part of agricultural ecosystems due to their activity as pollinators. In the scope of bee colony losses reported from some regions, there is an intense ongoing discussion about the multiple factors potentially affecting bee health. One of the factors central in these public debate is pesticides. In the context of this discussion, regulatory authorities in many countries are considering how
to revise their national assessment schemes to evaluate the safety of pesticides to bees. It is important that risk assessment systems are globally as consistent as possible. They need to be protective, scientifically robust, yet pragmatic, easy to interpret and implement. This review outlines a risk assessment system which fulfills these criteria. The system presented is based on the principles of the EPPO (European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization) 170 Approach which is successfully used in Europe and is demonstrably protective. It is a tiered, hierarchical system relying on internationally validated study designs. The goal is
protection of the bee colony, its health and productivity. The higher-tier assessment is based on semi-field and field studies. Such studies provide direct evidence in cases where the lower-tier laboratory-based assessment did not yield conclusive results, and they include the option to consider realistic exposure scenarios in specific cases. For the bee-safe use of crop protection products, risk management is critical as a measure to minimize exposure; therefore risk management and risk mitigation are integral to the proposed scheme. At any stage during the tiered risk assessment, it may be appropriate to consider risk mitigation measures.
Keywords: Honeybees, Pesticides, Risk assessment, Ecotoxicology