There have been reports these last years of declines in native and managed pollinators in several regions of the world. Potential factors associated with these declines are hypothesised to include habitat destruction, predators, certain agricultural practices, bee management practices, pathogens, climate change, nutrition and pesticides. There is uncertainty regarding the extent to which pesticides contribute to pollinator declines. In recent years, reports of adverse incidents associated with pesticides use have been rapidly disseminated by the media across the globe. Pesticide Regulatory Authorities of OECD member countries have found challenging to access authoritative information sources in real time to develop responses to incidents.
In 2009, the OECD Working Group on Pesticides conducted a survey to address issues related to pollinator declines. Member countries were surveyed on: how incident information on bees is handled, testing requirements for pollinators, active areas of research into pollinator issues, and approaches employed to mitigate potential risks to pollinators from pesticides. The report of the OECD Survey on Pollinators Testing, Research, Mitigation and Information Management: Survey Results was published in 2010 in the series on Pesticides, No. 52.
Outcome of OECD Work
The work related to bees and pollinators is conducted into two areas overseen respectively by the Working Group on Pesticides (WGP) and the Working Group of National Coordinators of the Test Guidelines Programme (WNT). It consists of:
- Pollinator Incidents Information System is a system launched in March 2014 allowing the rapid exchange of information between national competent authorities on information on pollinator poisoning incidents potentially related to pesticide (mis)use.
- Managing Pesticide Risk to Insect Pollinators Website is a mechanism for sharing risk management tools – precautionary labelling, use restrictions, training materials, best management practices, integrated pest management, etc. – used by OECD countries to mitigate pollinator risks. It was launched in April 2014. The website is intended to provide a central point where anyone can quickly find information about the regulatory approaches adopted by OECD member countries to mitigate pesticide risks to insect pollinators.
- Test Guidelines and Guidance Documents
Three OECD Guidelines for the Testing of Chemicals and two Guidance Documents for honeybee toxicity testing have been developed and are publically available:
- TG 213, adopted on 21st September 1998: Honeybees, Acute Oral Toxicity Test
- TG 214, adopted on 21st September 1998: Honeybees, Acute Contact Toxicity Test
- TG 237, adopted on 26th July 2013: Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Larval Toxicity Test, Single Exposure
- No. 75, Guidance Document on Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Brood Test under Semi-field Conditions, published in August 2007 in the series on Testing and Assessment
- Draft Guidance Document on Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Larval Toxicity Test, Repeated Exposure, dated 25th February 2014
Current and Planned OECD Activities
Testing Requirements and Risk Assessment Priorities have been ranked based on the analysis of need and feasibility. Need is determined by the policy and (current and future) regulatory requirements.
Feasibility is determined by a number of elements like: can the proposed test be easily conducted? Is there already someone working on this test method? Are there available data obtained by using the proposed test method? Will adequate methodology be available soon? Is there a need for further research before envisaging such a test?
The following activities have been given high priority for both need and feasibility:
- 10-d laboratory toxicity test on adult honeybee;
- Laboratory toxicity test on developmental stages of honeybee: larvae, pupae and adult emergence;
- Honeybee tunnel test under semi-field conditions;
- Estimation of level of residues in pollen and nectar by calculation based on the application rate;
- Risk assessment schemes for adult and larvae honeybee, bumble bees and solitary bees, for sprayed products, soil and seed treatments;
- Uncertainties in the risk assessment; and
- Laboratory acute contact toxicity test on adults of solitary non-Apis bee species.
These priorities are in line with the work undertaken in Europe under the auspices of the International Commission for Pollinator Plant Relationship (ICPPR).
Based on the above priorities, the following activities are currently underway:
- Ring-testing of the Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Larval Toxicity Test, Repeated Exposure
- Development and ring-testing of a 10-d Laboratory Toxicity Test on Adult Honeybees
- Revision of Guidance Document on Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Brood Test under Semi-field Conditions, originally published in August 2007 in the series on Testing and Assessment, No. 75
Note: Information related to the current ring tests is provided to experts nominated by the OECD member countries.