Last week the Obama administration created a federal strategy to help save the bees, but many groups feel that it is not enough. Making an economic argument for the enormous value of bees, the White House memorandum states:
Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.
The memorandum establishes a task force to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, with efforts to figure out what is causing bee deaths, educate the public, increase pollinator habitat and do a number of other things. Proposed budget? $50 million for the next year.
It’s a laudable first step in protecting the insects that sustain our food, but the strategy falls short, according to many environmental groups. Populations of bees, Monarch butterflies and other pollinators like bats,have been on the decline over the last twenty years and many people believe that this is due, in large part to pesticides. In the case of bees, a class called neonicotinoids (neonics) are the culprit. Beyond Pesticides, criticizes current EPA initiatives and the the strategy:
While EPA announced Friday that it has released two tools in an effort to protect pollinators, the availability of its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, and new Residual Time to 25 Percent Bee Mortality (RT25 Data), the agency still falls short of restricting the harmful systemic pesticides that are linked to bee decline.
Center for Food Safety similarly applauds the effort, but is calling for the EPA to do more:
A large component of the White House memorandum focuses on creating pollinator habitat; however, the administration does direct EPA to assess the impacts of neonicotinoids on pollinators within 180 days and calls for the agency to take action where appropriate. Center for Food Safety agrees that assessment alone is insufficient and calls for immediate action. There is already a wealth of peer reviewed literature demonstrating the harms of pesticides to bees and other pollinators.
And, as if to make the call for action against neonics all the more clear, The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides has just released its World Integrated Assessment; a massive meta-analysis of 800 scientific studies in the last five years on the effects of neonics. The evidence is all too clear on the damage that neonics can cause. Friends of the Earth gives a great synopsis of the report highlighting some key voices in the anti-neonic movement:
Helen Browning, Director of the Soil Association, a member of the Bee Coalition said; "This overwhelming scientific evidence of the dangers of neonicotinoids follows a pattern. Classes of pesticides, previously claimed to be safe, are being found to be dangerous and subsequently banned. Farming urgently needs to learn the lessons of organic farmers, in the way they succeed to manage pests and benefit wildlife without the use of dangerous pesticides"
A bill already sits in Congress which would take neonics off of the market until a full review is finished : H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA). If you want to bee more active in protecting the priceless resource of honey bees, and getting neonicotinoids out of our soils, then check out these two petitions to Congress from Center for Food Safety and Beyond Pesticides. Make your voice heard!
PHOTO: Beekeeper holding a handful of dead bees, Creative Commons
As President Mandates Pollinator Protection, EPA Lags Behind Science via Beyond Pesticides
White House Offers Hope for Pollinators via Center for Food Safety
Worldwide Integrated Assessment via The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides
Press release Bees: Call for action as global review highlights pesticide threat via Friends of the Earth
Tell Congress to Suspend Bee-Toxic Pesticides via Center for Food Safety