28/10/2019 2 min

Reinforced plant protection product assessment to safeguard bees

To reduce the exposure of bees and other pollinating insects to plant protection products, ANSES recommended, in its opinion of 23 November 2018, strengthening the national provisions imposing restrictions on product use during periods when crops attract these insects. The Agency is now publishing a new opinion aimed at improving risk assessment methods for marketing authorisation applications. ANSES recommends relying on the EFSA guidance document, in order to better assess the long-term risks for bees and other pollinators. In addition, the Agency stresses the need to set regulatory threshold values for chronic risks at European level, in order to harmonise the criteria used for making decisions on marketing authorisation for products.

Methodology governing the assessment of risks to bees

For each marketing authorisation application for a plant protection product, a set of data on toxicity to bees must be provided. Since 2015, this has included studies on chronic toxicity to adult bees and bee larva development, in addition to acute toxicity studies.

Risk assessments are conducted on the basis of test results according to a methodology that has been harmonised at European level. In 2013, EFSA proposed a guidance document to assess the risks for bees, including several exposure scenarios. This new methodology has not been adopted by the Member States and is currently being updated by EFSA. 

Marketing authorisation is only granted if the criteria relating to the decision have been met. These criteria correspond to threshold values not to be exceeded with regard to risks to bees. At the moment, regulatory threshold values only exist for acute effects on bees, and are currently being amended. They also need to be set for chronic risks.

Methodological changes recommended by ANSES

ANSES recommends conducting risk assessments based on the EFSA 2013 guidance document. This methodology is particularly suitable for assessing chronic toxicity studies on adult bees and larval development studies, as well as bumblebee toxicity studies. It also enables different bee exposure routes to be taken into account, not just in the treated crop but also in the surrounding area, such as field margins, adjacent crops or puddles of water. The EFSA methodology also includes exposure scenarios for bumblebees.

Regulatory threshold values for these effects are essential, if the results of the risk assessment for chronic effects and larval development are to be used for marketing authorisation decisions. In order to define these criteria, the European Regulation as regards uniform principles for evaluation and authorisation of plant protection products should be amended as soon as possible.