Fera were proud to host the International Commission for Plant-Pollinator Relationships (ICPPR) Bee Protection Group’s 15th symposium

The International Commission for Plant Pollinator Relationships (ICPPR) Bee Protection Group (BPG), is one of the scientific commissions of the International Union for Biological Sciences (IUBS) which is part of the International Council of the Scientific Unions (ICSU held its first meeting in Wageningen in the Netherlands in 1980. Over the last 40+ years the group has become the expert forum for addressing potential risks of pesticides to bees (both Apis (predominantly Apis mellifera - the European Honey Bee and in more recent times non-Apis species such as bumble bees and solitary bees)). The remit of the ICPPR BPG is to develop and test suitable methods for assessing the potential effects of plant protection products (PPPs) on bees. From concept, ring testing through to fully adopted internationally recognised Test Guidelines – the group has been responsible for developing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recognised Test Methods and Guidelines, including OECD TG 245 (10 day chronic adult honey bee test) and OECD TG 246 & 247 (acute contact and oral bumble bee tests). The BPG comprises a broad membership drawn from industry, regulatory bodies (risk assessors and risk managers), academia and contract research laboratories - all the people with the best knowledge and background to support the work of the group!! Anyone can join - it is an open membership and there is a truly international membership from Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.

The BPG is split in to working groups (WG) of specialists who come together to work on and answer specific questions, topics or current, future areas of interest; at present there are four WG’s;  Bee Brood WG, non-Apis WG, Semi-field and field WG and Microbials. The individual WGs work and report back on issues identified to the whole BPG via meetings and at the symposia.

After 2 years of teams and zoom meetings and virtual conferences during the COVID pandemic, the ICPPR BPG 15th International Symposium was finally held in 2022.

Approximately 120 people registered for the symposium in York for 4 days of interaction; presentations from international organisations, scientific presentations from individuals and groups, reports from WG’s, providing lively discussion and the exchange of ideas and opinions.

At this Symposium there were guest speakers and representatives from a range of international organisations, in fact the first day was dedicated to presentations from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (Leon van der Wal), the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) (William Garthwaite), The European Commission (Sofie Hoefkens) and The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (Csaba Szentes, Brecht Ingels, and Dirk Süßenbach) providing  delegates with an opportunity to hear how these key organisations are promoting sound science globally. The hope is that these interactions will lead to much closer collaborations between the parties in the future (e.g., Expert Group on Pollinator Testing and Assessment (EG-PTA)).

An example of how closer collaboration could be developed via these forums was the discussion following the presentations from the EFSA team. On the Guidance on the risk assessment for honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees published in 2013; which was never fully ratified or implemented due to stakeholder and Member State concerns. In 2019 the European Commission asked EFSA to revise the 2013 publication. This was carried out by EFSA and a group of experts and the new Draft document was published and went up for public consultation earlier this year.

The Guidance Document outlines a tiered approach for exposure estimation in different scenarios. It includes hazard characterisation and provides risk assessment (RA) methodology covering both dietary and contact exposure. There are also recommendations for higher tier studies, and the document covers risks from metabolites and mixtures. During the symposium the EFSA team gave a number of detailed  presentations highlighting differences and a number of step changes in the approach from the 2013 document. EFSA are currently working on the comments received during the commenting phase of the consultation and it is hoped to produce a revised document – which the EC Commission (DG SANTE) is hoping will be accepted in early 2023. During the meeting it was suggested that once the document has been finalised, due to the huge changes in the RA scheme that EFSA should hold some workshops to help stakeholders through the document.

Day 2 focused on presentations from the WG chairs. For example, the Brood Working group that I co-chair has worked on three threads since last meeting;  producing a revised recommendation (EPPO publication) based on the Oomen et al direct feeding study, a ‘Conceptual Framework’ (the Poster was presented at the symposium) for clarification of the individual higher tier brood test methods based on their advantages and disadvantages and with regard to the type of test item under evaluation and also its application method, and revision of the OECD 75 Guidance Document (semi-field brood study) based on experience with the method and the inclusion of new developments such as digitized brood monitoring software. A revised document has been submitted to OECD and it is hoped that this will be agreed on at the next WNT meeting to be held in April 2023 and an updated version published.

Days 3 and the 4 were given to presentations from improvements of solitary bee oral dosing methods, modelling using BEEHAVEecotox to predict semi-field results and an assessment of an array of new and emerging technologies such as accurate bee counters.

All in all, it was an extremely thought provoking Symposium with a fascinating selection of presentations and interesting discussions, it is clear that the ICPPR BPG is a hugely active and productive group, helping to advance the area of testing the effects of pesticides to bees - using novel technology and approaches to assist with the provision of truly evidence based data to help authorities make informed regulatory decisions.

I would like to extend our thanks to everyone involved for making the event such a success -the ICPPR Steering Committee; Jens Pistorius, Anne Alix and Tom Steeger and to all of the delegates and presenters for their enthusiastic contributions. 

We are already looking forward to the next looking forward to the 16th Bee Protection Group International Symposium.


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