The New EFSA Bee Guidance
On the 13th of June 2023, Kerona attended the online information session on the new EFSA Bee Guidance. The guidance incorporates many new criteria to have an exhaustive analysis of the potential effects of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) on bees and other non-target arthropods. It will enter into force in the spring of 2024.
The 2023 bee guidance is quite extensive, consisting of a staggering 74 different documents, with a combined total of over 1600 pages. This is a significant increase compared to the previous EFSA Guidance of 2013, which was only 300 pages long. It’s even more remarkable when you consider that the initial EPPO guidance from 2002 was just a single page.
The revised Bee Guidance Document begins with an introductory chapter that sets the framework for subsequent chapters, outlining the purpose and scope of the guidance, primarily focusing on direct effects and technical mixtures within the context of Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009, but excluding micro-organisms and semio-chemicals from scope of the risk assessment.
The Bee Guidance Document adopts a tiered approach to the risk assessment which involves four risk cases: acute-contact, acute-dietary, chronic-dietary, and larvae-dietary. Each risk case is evaluated through different tiers providing detailed assessments for contact and dietary exposure.
Regarding the exposure assessment, the concept of the Pesticide Exposure Quotient (PEQ) is introduced. PEQ values are calculated by selecting the worst-case exposure scenario for each of the four risk cases, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of potential risks.
During Chapter 7 the EFSA explored the lower-tier risk assessment, which primarily relies on laboratory studies to assess specific protection goals (SPGs) for honeybees. Mortality endpoints from these studies are utilized to evaluate compliance with the SPGs, although concerns remain about the potential underestimation of real effects due to the exclusion of sublethal effects.
One of the many ways to refine the actual risk assessment for bees is to consider that some substances are more toxic on repeated application (they break Harber’s law) causing a worse effect than previously determined with the old guideline. This phenomenon is called Time-Reinforced Toxicity (TRT), and in these substances a screening and TKTD-GUTS model is required.
Chapter 9 focuses on the risk assessment for sublethal effects. The specific protection goal for honeybees is set at a maximum reduction of 10% in colony strength. As mentioned before, lower tiers rely on mortality endpoints from laboratory studies. However, concerns are raised regarding the potential impact of sublethal effects on colony strength, which may not be adequately captured in the lower tier assessments.
In the higher tier assessments, EFSA has incorporated existing guidance, such as EPPO PP 1/170, and recommends field studies, including semi-field studies, honeybee larvae studies, and free-foraging colony observations. These studies aim to evaluate colony strength and other supplementary endpoints to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the risks posed by pesticides.
The last chapter addresses the critical aspect of risk mitigation measures, emphasizing the need to implement appropriate measures to minimize the adverse effects of pesticides on bees, promoting sustainable agricultural practices and the protection of pollinators.
In conclusion, the new EFSA Bee Guidance marks a significant step towards ensuring the protection and well-being of bee populations in the face of PPP use. With its comprehensive criteria, specific protection goals, and refined risk assessment approaches, this guidance aims to address the potential effects of Plant Protection Products on honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees.
If you require assistance with the ecotoxicological risk assessment in the area of PPPs please contact the Kerona team in Ireland, Spain or the UK at firstname.lastname@example.org