STC Number - 301

US risk analysis for the entry of queen bees

Maintained by: United States of America
Raised by: Argentina
Supported by:
First date raised: June 2010 G/SPS/R/59 paras. 28-29
Dates subsequently raised: October 2012 (G/SPS/R/69 paras. 53-54)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: Raised orally.
Products covered: 01 Live animals; 0106 Other live animals.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Risk assessment
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2010, Argentina raised concerns about US risk analysis for the importation of queen bees from Argentina into the North American market. Argentina had conducted research and provided information to the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). There had been a constructive exchange and Argentina hoped to soon report the satisfactory conclusion of the risk assessment.

The United States reported that due to the importance of beekeeping in US agriculture, there was a high level of protection against foreign bee pests and diseases. On 7 June 2010, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had started a national bee pest and disease survey to determine the prevalence of parasites and disease-causing micro-organisms that could contribute to the observed decline of American honey bee colonies. Two laws, the Honey Bee Act and the Plant Protection Act, direct the USDA to enforce sanitary regulations to protect honey bee colonies, and the United States had published science-based risk assessment procedures for approving imports of bees. With respect to Argentina's request for a risk assessment, the United States had provided the findings of an assessment to the Argentine authorities in 2004, identifying three pests of concern in Argentine bees: Africanized honey bee, Braula schmitzi (bee louse), and Varroa destructor (mite). In September 2009, the United States had informed Argentina that the risk assessment was being revised to reflect changes in bee health and risks worldwide. Information collected from the national survey launched in June 2010 would inform further risk assessment of Argentine queen bees.

In October 2012, Argentina expressed its concern about the delays by the United States in granting authorization for the importation of queen bees. Argentina had requested access to the US market in 2000 and had submitted all the information requested by USDA/APHIS in order to facilitate the pest risk analysis (PRA). It was not until 2004 that the United States requested further information, including the provision of the genetic characterization of Argentina's queen bees, which was submitted. In 2008, after three years of research, with the participation of laboratories from Spain, an ad hoc scoping study was presented which demonstrated the absence of Africanized bees and of parasitic exotic plagues in Argentina. In 2009, USDA/APHIS informed Argentina that the PRA of queen bees was not a regulatory priority and that is would not proceed with the assessment. This situation was inconsistent with Articles 5, 8 and Annex C of the SPS Agreement and Argentina was concerned that the information which it had submitted in a timely manner would no longer be valid when USDA/APHIS finally decided to consider its request.

The United States indicated that a number of factors had contributed to the declining health of honey bee colonies in the United States over the past few years. Some of the factors affecting honey bees included the introduction into the United States of several foreign bee pests and new diseases caused by viruses. For this reason, an effective level of security had been established to prevent the introduction of foreign bee pests and diseases, which could rapidly spread throughout the United States. A science-based risk assessment procedure had been published for approval of countries' exports of bees, including from Argentina, to the US market. In compliance with the risk assessment procedure and based on changes in bee health and risks worldwide, the United States had requested technical information from Argentina on several occasions and letters were exchanged in 2011 and 2012. After reviewing the data, the USDA informed its counterpart SENASA in September 2012 that Argentina's request for access for bees could not be considered until further information and disease information was provided. There was no delay in the US PRA, but, as stated in September 2012, Argentina needed to provide information regarding the presence of diseases in Argentina's bee population and on the regulatory control of imports of honey bees into Argentina. The United States urged Argentina to quickly respond to this request for information in order to expedite their request and resolve the concern.