European Union lawmakers on Tuesday called for stronger action to protect Europe's bees, saying that the rapid decline in the bee population could affect the growth of important food crops.

The European Parliament called for more funds for research, clearer warning labels on pesticides and incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop antibiotics.

Beekeeping is crucial for our society as pollination plays an essential role in preserving biodiversity and maintaining sustainable European agriculture and food security, said Socialist EU lawmaker Csaba Sandor Tabajdi, who tabled the resolution.

The EU's executive, the European Commission, estimates that 84 percent of plant species in Europe are dependent on pollination and that pollination has an economic value to the bloc of 22 billion euros.

The lack of data on bee health has been a hurdle in identifying the causes of the population decline, the Commission has said. It plans to launch a pilot surveillance programme to monitor bee-health at the beginning of next year.

Experts in many countries have documented a disappearance of bees in recent years in what is widely called colony collapse disorder, blamed on many factors including parasites, fungi, stress, pesticides and viruses.

The EU produces around 200,000 tonnes of honey per year, and Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Romania are the bloc's biggest producers, according to the Commission.

EU lawmakers adopted the resolution by an overwhelming majority, with 534 votes in favour, 16 against and 92 abstentions.

(Reporting By Christopher Le Coq. Editing By Sebastian Moffett and Tim Pearce)