Priorities for action

The priorities for action have been distilled from the reviews conducted for the Global seminar, as well as inputs provided by the six regional working groups conducted in preparation of the Seminar. In addition, recommendations made in a number of recent international reports on the conservation of pollinators have been considered, as far as they applied to pesticide risks. A draft version was discussed in the parallel sessions of the Global Seminar, and inputs provided by panellists and participants were taken into account in the set of priorities listed below.

These priorities is by no means exhaustive, but are considered to comprise of actions that can make a significant contribution to reducing the risks of pesticides to pollinators. The focus is on low and middle income countries, although lessons learned from countries with established pollinator legislation and risk assessment approaches have also been considered.

The priorities for action have been grouped under the following headings:

  • Policy
  • Legislation
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk mitigation
  • Monitoring and incident reporting


Gaps and challenges

Policy is considered to be a set of principles that guide decision-making. A national pollinator protection policy defines desired changes and is the basis for translating political vision into programmes and actions. Policy generally will propose both legally binding and voluntary elements. The majority of national pollinator promotion and protection policies, strategies, initiatives or action plans have been elaborated in Europe and North America; only a limited number of LMICs have so far done so.

Priorities for action

  • Develop policies which set ambitious targets for the protection and promotion of both managed and wild pollinators. Such policies, among others, could aim to:

    • engage stakeholders to play an active role in design and implementation, including all public and private stakeholders at the central and decentralized levels, as well as indigenous communities.
    • provide that pesticides which pose evident risks to pollinators are not allowed for use in or near pollinator-dependent crops, crops important for pollinator foraging, and natural ecosystems valuable for pollinator biodiversity.
    • promote pest management approaches which rely less on pesticides posing risks to pollinators, and more on biological control, agroecology and integrated pest management. In countries or cropping systems where more sustainable pest management has been promoted without significant progress, governments could consider setting legally binding targets through legislation and providing economic incentives, particularly during vulnerable transition periods.
    • improve bees health and nutrition to make them more resilient to risks resulting from pesticides.
    • optimally combine legally binding regulations with non-legal elements, such as information provision, education and training, behaviour change strategies, promotion of low-risk alternatives to pesticides, and economic and non-economic incentives, to ensure long-term sustainable reduction of pesticide effects on pollinators.
    • facilitate dialogue and mediation between farmers, beekeepers and other actors
    • integrate policy to protect pollinators in the broader goal of sustainably increasing agricultural productivity through ecological intensification, agroecological production and diversification.

      [key actors of change: governments, food industry, civil society organizations, …]
  • Support countries and other stakeholders to elaborate and implement policies to protect and promote pollinators, through technical and policy guidance, pilot studies and activities, success sharing (peer-to-peer learning), assistance for implementation, and capacity building.

    [key actors of change: FAO, international and bilateral donors, international research organizations, civil society organizations, …]


Gaps and challenges

While many LMICs have legislation in place that could be used to support the protection of pollinators from pesticides, available provisions tend to have a relatively narrow focus on pesticide registration requirements. Broader legal perspectives appear to be underutilized, such as legal provisions that aim to protect locations deemed particularly important for wild and managed pollinators, legal provisions that aim to ensure that pesticides are applied in a manner that is less harmful to pollinators, and legal provisions that underpin monitoring and responses to adverse effects of pesticides on pollinators.

Furthermore, effective implementation of available legislation encounters serious challenges in many countries, due to inadequate human and financial resources, inadequate regulatory monitoring and enforcement, and limited political support due to competition from other agricultural and environmental priorities, among others.

Priorities for action

  • Develop guidance to strengthen national and regional legislation to protect pollinators from pesticides, taking into consideration different legal areas and elements that countries may introduce for that purpose.

    [key actors of change: FAO, …]

  • Strengthen national legislation to protect pollinators from pesticides. Such a regulatory framework, among others and as relevant, aims to:
    • actively engage all stakeholders in law making and implementation.
    • ensure that legislation with respect to agricultural development, plant protection, pesticide authorization and use, beekeeping, environment and biodiversity are comprehensive and complementary, in regard to the protection of pollinators from risks posed by pesticides.
    • include concrete pollinator protection goals (shaping the criteria for pesticide authorization), risk assessment procedures and risk mitigation measures in the procedures for pesticides registration and authorizations for use.
    • provide legal powers and processes to support the reduction in the use of and progressively phase out pesticides which are harmful to or that present an unacceptable risk to pollinators.
    • put in place measures to prevent and control the marketing and use of counterfeited and substandard pesticides.
    • set binding targets for the development, authorization and implementation of low risk alternatives to pesticides posing a high risk to pollinators.
    • assign responsibility to introduce measures which can encourage, incentivize as well as compel good practices in the use of pesticides.
    • comprise specific focus on pollinator-rich habitats when protecting and promoting biodiversity.
    • provide for the protection of managed bees and include mechanisms for ensuring liability and compensation in case of pesticide-induced damage to beekeeping
    • assign powers and responsibilities for effective compliance, monitoring and enforcement.

      [key actors of change: governments, …]

Risk assessment

Gaps and challenges

While pollinator hazard assessments and classification are conducted by a considerable number of LMICs, only few of them conduct risk assessments. Bees are considered to be the most important pollinators in many LMICs. The focus of hazard and risk assessment is on honeybees; risk assessment approaches for bees in tropical, subtropical and semi-arid (agro-)ecosystems are virtually non-existent, even though they are known to be important pollinators in such systems. Bees in LMICs are exposed to multiple pesticides and other stressors, but risk assessment tends to have a single-pesticide focus. Pesticide regulatory authorities have only limited human and technical capacity to conduct pollinator risk assessments.

Priorities for action

  • Assess the types of pollinators which are present in key cropping systems, as well as their role in and importance for pollination and (agro-)biodiversity.

    [key actors of change: international and national research organizations, …]

  • Identify cropping systems and/or pollinator groups, globally, for which pesticide risk assessment methods need to be developed or strengthened.

    [key actors of change: FAO, international and national research organizations; pesticide regulators, …]

  • Apply, in the short term and as a minimum, existing basic (lower tier) risk assessment methods for western honeybees, as a surrogate for tropical, subtropical and semi-arid bees, to screen pesticides submitted for registration.

    [key actors of change: pesticide regulators in LMICs, …]

  • Develop, in the medium term, robust risk assessment methods for pollinators in tropical, subtropical and semi-arid agroecosystems, among others through:
    • increasing knowledge on comparative susceptibility of different pollinator groups.
    • increasing knowledge on routes and levels of exposure of, in particular, non-honeybee species
    • assessing whether risk assessment methods for specific cropping-systems could facilitate and harmonize the evaluation of pesticide risks across countries or regions.

      [key actors of change: international and national research organizations; pesticide regulators, …]

  • Develop pragmatic methods to assess the risks of multiple pesticides to pollinators, as well as of interactions between pesticides and other stressors, such as bee pathogens, parasites and nutrition.

    [key actors of change: international and national research organizations; pesticide regulators, …]

  • Build capacity on pollinator risk assessment in pesticide regulatory authorities of low and middle income countries.

    [key actors of change: FAO, regulatory authorities in reference countries, …]

  • Establish mechanisms for regional information exchange and work sharing on pollinator risk assessment between pesticide regulators.

    [key actors of change: FAO, regional inter-governmental organizations, pesticide regulators, …]

Risk mitigation

Gaps and challenges

In many countries, registration under the condition of compulsory mitigation measures is a common approach to reduce pesticide risks to pollinators. Generally, such risk mitigation measures are label-based. Denial of registration for all proposed uses or for high risk uses is also sometimes applied. While the label provides useful information for pollinator protection, farmers may not strictly follow label information for various reasons. Furthermore, adequate regulatory monitoring and enforcement is lacking in many countries. Some countries have set up systems that allow beekeepers to be informed about nearby pesticide applications.

Priorities for action

  • Prescribe pollinator risk reduction measures that can realistically be applied in the country, taking into consideration the local conditions of use of the pesticide, as well as the possibilities for regulatory monitoring and enforcement.

    [key actors of change: pesticide regulators, …]

  • Motivate pesticide users to follow the label, by ensuring that they are available in the language of users, and through capacity development, awareness raising and information provision about the importance of pollination for agricultural production and biodiversity and of the risks posed by pesticides to pollinators.

    [key actors of change: pesticide regulators, agricultural extension services, …]

  • In addition to prescribing label-based pollinator risk mitigation measures, promote non-labelling risk reduction such as implementation of best management practices and training of farmers and pesticide operators.

    [key actors of change: pesticide regulators, agricultural extension services, …]

  • Establish or strengthen national or local communication and information exchange mechanisms between pesticide users and beekeepers to ensure that the latter are informed in a timely manner about upcoming pesticide applications.

    [key actors of change: governments, …]

  • Promote pest management approaches which rely less on pesticides posing risks to pollinators, and more on biological control, agroecology and integrated pest management

    [key actors of change: pesticide regulators, agricultural extension services, …]

  • Develop a tool-box type approach to risk mitigation options with the aim to facilitate uptake by farmers

    [key actors of change: international and national research organizations agricultural extension services, …]

  • Establish or strengthen national or local communication and information exchange mechanisms between pesticide users and beekeepers

    [key actors of change: governments, beekeepers associations, pesticide regulators, …]

  • Strengthen inspection and enforcement activities with the aim to ensure that compulsory pollinator risk mitigation measures are followed, and create a culture of compliance.

    [key actors of change: governments, …]

Monitoring and incident reporting

Gaps and challenges

In most LMICs no systems are in place for reporting cases of bee poisoning, even though ad hoc cases of bee poisoning may be reported by bee keepers, research institutes or the media.

Priorities for action

  • Review existing national or sub-national bee mortality incident reporting systems and identify key elements to take into consideration when establishing or strengthening such systems.

    [key actors of change: FAO, international research organizations, …]

  • Establish cost-effective reporting systems for bee mortality incidents and ensure feedback into the pesticide regulatory system.

    [key actors of change: governments, beekeepers associations, …]

  • Monitor the long-term trends of both managed and wild bee populations, as well as pesticide residues, in such a manner that possible associations with the use of pesticides may be established.

    [key actors of change: governments, beekeepers associations, national and international research organizations, citizen science, …]