Beekeepers accuse ministry of violating their right to privacy

Photo: Klára Stejskalová

Personal data protection is a hot issue these days, not just among Facebook users. Czech beekeepers are up in arms over information released by the Czech agriculture ministry, arguing that it violates their privacy and puts their business at risk.

Photo: Klára Stejskalová
Czech beekeepers are outraged by the fact that the Agriculture Ministry recently released a list of their names, addresses, email addresses, mobile phone numbers and the exact location of their mobile beehives. All this information is available online at the click of a mouse.

Beekeepers say that aside from violating their right to privacy the list is an open invitation to thieves and vandals and are signing a petition to get it scrapped.

Meanwhile the ministry claims it compiled the list in accordance with the law and with the best intentions – mainly to simplify communication between beekeepers and farmers, which is essential to protect beehives at a time when farmers are spraying their fields with various pesticides that may be harmful to bee colonies.

The controversy was brought to the attention of the Institute for the Protection of Personal Data which concluded that the Agriculture Ministry had fulfilled its obligation to protect beekeepers interests’ in line with the law but conceded that beekeepers ‘concerns were justified. It urged the two sides to reach a compromise agreement and suggested a change of regulations might be in order.

Paradoxically, the new legislation that obliges farmers to give beekeepers early warning of pesticides application in the given locality was approved at the instigation of beekeepers who protested against the damage that the spraying of pesticides was doing to their colonies.

Farmers are now obliged by law to issue such a warning or face a fine of more than half a million crowns. And the bureaucratic machinery that accompanies the creation of such legislation took things further than beekeepers expected – with the ministry now releasing detailed information not only about them, but about their bee colonies as well.

Moreover, anxious to avoid fines, some farmers have tried to cover their backs by sending beekeepers in their locality warnings that pesticides could be applied at any time in the period between April and October.