It was raining as we strolled across the courtyard of the Binnenhof, the seat of parliament and the Prime Minister in the Hague. A fraternity mate of mine who was on an internship there showed us around. He pointed out some beehives standing in little garden. They had been put there by Dion Graus, an MP from the far-right PVV party. ‘To show that bees in the city are less affected by pesticides than those in the countryside.’ There wasn’t a bee to be seen; they were probably staying inside.
Elsewhere in The Hague recently, the National Bee Strategy was proudly presented. This is an action plan for bees and other pollinators, signed by 43 parties. Besides WUR, signatories included chemical firms BASF, Bayer and Syngenta. Fortunately, because – regardless of any of Dion Graus’s other standpoints – it is certainly true that bees and pesticides don’t always make a good combination.
The action plan is clear about that too. It focuses mainly on food supply and nesting opportunities, but it also includes a lot of phrases such as ‘wise use of crop protection chemicals’. To find out exactly what is meant by ‘wise’ you have to refer to a memo mentioned in a footnote. While a lot of stakeholders have been positioning themselves clearly in the debate on the authorizing of individual pesticides, the National Bee Strategy does not mention a single product by name.
That really is a bit strange. Nobody would deny that you should deal with pesticides sensibly but what constitutes ‘sensibly’ depends, for a start, on the substance in question. No two pesticides are the same and we are none the wiser for vague talk of ‘wise use’. I don’t think that will lure Dion’s bees out of their hives. .