From: Reuters
Published November 19, 2008 08:07 AM

Use flower power to save Europe's bees: EU lawmaker

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Honey bees, whose numbers are falling, must be given flowery "recovery zones" in Europe's farmlands to aid their survival, a leading EU lawmaker said Wednesday.

Bees pollinate numerous crops and scientists have expressed alarm over their mysterious and rapid decline. Experts have warned that a drop in the bee population could harm agriculture.

"If we continue to neglect the global bee population, then this will have a dramatic effect on our already strained world food supplies," said Neil Parish, who chairs the European Parliament's agriculture committee.

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Parish, a British conservative, said vast swathes of single crops such as wheat often made it difficult for bees to find enough nectar.

But he said farmers could help bees by planting patches of bee-friendly flowers -- including daisies, borage and lavender.

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"We're talking about less than one percent of the land for bee-friendly crops -- in corners where farmers can't get to with their machinery, round trees and under hedges."

Genetically modified crops, climate change, pesticides and modern farming techniques have all been blamed for making bees vulnerable to parasites, viruses and other diseases.

More research is needed to pin down the exact cause of the declining number of bees, the European Parliament is expected to recommend in its vote Wednesday evening.

"The experts themselves are mystified," said Parish. "A failure to act now could have catastrophic consequences."

The EU parliament's vote will carry no legal weight but is intended to nudge the European Commission and EU member states to take the matter seriously.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Catherine Bosley and Paul Casciato)

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