Obama Mandates Precedent-Setting Task Force to Protect Honey Bees and Other Pollinators

Obama Mandates Precedent-Setting Task Force to Protect Honey Bees and Other Pollinators

During the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauds this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S.

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The federal strategy will include a pollinator research action plan, a public education initiative and the implementation of public-private partnerships. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Friday, June 20, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies and others. In accordance with these losses and acknowledging the importance pollinators have to the agricultural economy, the memorandum directs federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, to be chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days, and support and create pollinator habitat. This federal strategy will include a pollinator research action plan, with a focus on preventing and recovering from pollinator losses, including studying how various stressors, like pesticides, pathogens and management practices contribute to pollinator losses. The task force will also engage in a public education initiative and develop public-private partnerships with various stakeholders.

“Today, President Obama set a precedent, elevating the plight of our nation’s pollinators by acknowledging not only their importance to our economy, but directing federal agencies to be leaders in finding meaningful solutions to our current pollinator crisis,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA have been slow to respond to pollinator losses and must take immediate action, especially on pesticides known to be toxic to bees and other pollinators.

EPA Fails to Restrict Pesticides Linked to Bee Decline

The President highlights many factors that contribute to pollinator decline; however it is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides that have been receiving the most scrutiny from beekeepers and scientists. These pesticides are not only highly toxic to bees, but studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. 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 Precent Bee Mortality (RT25 Data), the agency still falls short of restricting the harmful systemic pesticides that are linked to bee decline.

The guidance will purportedly allow the agency to assess effects from systemic pesticides quantitatively on individual bees as well as on bee colonies. The agency is implementing elements of the guidance in its ongoing registration review of neonicotinoid pesticides as well as other pesticide regulatory work. The ongoing review includes new required of the registrants, including refined semi-field studies under more real-world application conditions, however the agency admits that other data from ongoing full-field studies will take up to several years to complete. Additionally, at the request of beekeepers and growers, the agency has also posted RT25 Data online, which gauges the amount of time after application that a particular pesticide product remains toxic enough under real-world conditions to kill 25 percent of bees that are exposed to residues on treated plant surfaces.

Though the science very clearly points to neonicotinoids as a main culprit behind bee-deaths, and while successful organically managed systems prove that these pesticides are not necessary, the EPA has yet to take meaningful action to reduce exposure to these harmful chemicals. According to advocates, bee deaths in Oregon last week from the use of a neonicotinoid and mounting scientific evidence require an urgent response that necessitates removing these chemicals from the market. With continued incidents like these, beekeepers and many other concerned groups and citizens continue to urge the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.

The Saving America’s Pollinators Act

As the EPA continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against the EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure on lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators. H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), introduced last year by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D- OR) would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Three new co-sponsors signed on Friday, including Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 68. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that solutions be found quickly to protect bees and other pollinators. Tell your member of Congress to support SAPA!

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Scientists Release Landmark Worldwide Assessment Detailing Effects of Bee-Killing Pesticides

Scientists Release Landmark Worldwide Assessment Detailing Effects of Bee-Killing Pesticides

EcoWatch | June 24, 2014 2:57 pm | Comments

Today, on the heels of last week’s celebration of National Pollinator Week and the Presidential Memorandum that followed, the first wide-scale analysis of harmful pesticides known to contribute to declining bee populations has been released.

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Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA), issued by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, documents significant damage to bees and the environment stemming from the wide-spread use of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). The report stresses that even at very low levels, neonics and the products resulting from their breakdown in the environment are persistent and harmful, and suggests that the current regulatory system has failed to grasp the full range of impacts from these pesticides. The authors analyzed more than 800 peer-reviewed publications before coming to their consensus.

The report will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research and will be released at events in Brussels, Manila, Montreal and Tokyo over the next two days.

“This report should be a final wake up call for American regulators who have been slow to respond to the science,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network North America. “The weight of the evidence showing harm to bees and other pollinators should move EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] to restrict neonicotinoids sooner than later. And the same regulatory loopholes that allowed these pesticides to be brought to the market in the first place—and remain on the shelf—need to be closed.”

“The science clearly shows that, not only are these systemic pesticides lethal to pollinators, but even low doses can disrupt critical brain functions and reduce their immunity to common pathogens,” said Nichelle Harriott, staff scientist at Beyond Pesticides.

Neonics, as described by the Center for Food Safety, are a newer class of systemic insecticides that are absorbed by plants and transported throughout the plant’s vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects. Imidacloprid (Bayer)—followed by clothianidin (Bayer), thiamethoxam (Syngenta) and dinotefuran—first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s. At about the same time, beekeepers started observing widespread cases of population losses—episodes that lead to the coining of the term “colony collapse disorder.”

Over the past few years numerous studies and reports, as well as advocacy groups and beekeepers, have called on the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids, even filing lawsuits and circulating legal petitions against the agency. The EPA has continually stalled and indicated that a review of the pesticides will not be completed until 2018. Meanwhile, the European Commission instituted a continent-wide, two-year ban on neonicotinoids that began Dec. 1, 2013.

“To save our invaluable pollinators, EPA, USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and all Federal agencies must read this report and immediately implement regulatory remedies against the ongoing neonicotinoid disaster,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, senior scientist for Center for Food Safety. “We know from recent studies that neonicotinoid seed treatments are generally not improving yields or even keeping common pests at bay. They aren’t serving farmers and they certainly aren’t serving pollinators. It is time to address this common route of exposure.”

The report looks beyond the harmful affects on bees, noting the far-reaching impacts of neonics on entire ecosystems, including contamination of soil and water, as well similar effects being displayed in butterflies and other pollinators.

Since 2006, beekeepers in the U.S. have been losing, on average, more than 30 percent of their bees each year, with commercial productions losing upwards of 50 percent. Last month, the USDA reported that honeybees in the U.S. are dying at a rate too high to ensure their long-term survival.

“The report lends credence to what beekeepers have been saying for several years,” said Jeff Anderson, beekeeper and owner of California-Minnesota Honey Farms. “Our country depends on bees for crop pollination and honey production. It’s high time regulators realize that applying toxins to plants makes them toxic to bees.”

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Great Lakes Communities Struggle in Fight Against Proposed Nuclear Waste Facility

Great Lakes Communities Struggle in Fight Against Proposed Nuclear Waste Facility
Katie Rucke, Mint Press News | June 26, 2014 9:46 am | Comments
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For the past 15 years, Ontario Power Generation—one of the largest producers of electricity in North America—has been working to obtain approval from the Canadian government to build an underground repository near the Great Lakes to store its nuclear waste.

As the approval process for the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) nears an end, some concerned citizens have started a petition asking lawmakers in Canada, as well as the U.S., to block the approval of the proposed nuclear waste repository near the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant site in Kincardine, Ontario.

Almost 61,000 people have signed the petition so far, including Dr. David Suzuki, a famous Canadian environmentalist. resolution dots

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