Leading researchers from around the world are meeting in London this week for a three-day "summit" on the impact of pesticides on bee health. The meeting - which includes experts from academia, industry and government, as well as beekeepers and conservation organisations - will discuss the latest research on bee health, identify gaps in the science and attempt to build consensus.
The meeting (22-24 January 2014), organised by the Biochemical Society, British Ecological Society and the Society for Experimental Biology, will conclude with an open scientific discussion bringing stakeholders and journalists together with researchers to debate the issues in public, a 'first' for a meeting of this kind.
The sell-out meeting reflects the seriousness and scale of the problem facing bees and other insect pollinators. According to co-organiser Dr Christopher Connolly of the University of Dundee: "Global food security depends on healthy pollinators, and pollinator populations across the world are suffering declines. The scientific community needs to work together if we are to improve our understanding of the complex causes driving these declines."
More open debate between academic and industry researchers is also key. In 2013 the EU introduced a two-year moratorium on use of some neonicotinoids on crops attractive to bees. Despite support for the moratorium by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, the UK voted against the ban and the agrochemical industry is challenging the moratorium in the European Court of Justice.
"The meeting is an opportunity for public debate in an increasingly controversial area of science. This debate is crucial because we need to invest in the best studies, and policy needs to be based on better evidence. We hope this meeting will help us expose the key gaps in our knowledge," he says.