White House bee strategy calls for restoring pollinator habitat
By Daniel Enoch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2015 - The White House today released its National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, calling for the restoration or enhancement of 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years through federal actions and public/private partnerships.
Other goals of the strategy are to reduce honey bee colony losses during the winter months to no more than 15 percent within 10 years, and to increase the population of the Monarch butterfly to 225 million by 2020 in its overwintering grounds in Mexico.
“Pollinators are critical to our nation's economy, food security, and environmental health,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA chief Gina McCarthy said on behalf of the task force that prepared the strategy. “Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year, and provides the backbone to ensuring our diets are plentiful with fruits, nuts and vegetables. Through the actions discussed in this Strategy, and by working with partners across our country, we can and will help restore and sustain pollinator health nationwide.”
In a blog post, John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said beekeepers reported losing about 40 percent of honey bee colonies last year. Additionally, the number of overwintering Monarchs in Mexico's forests has declined by 90 percent or more over the past two decades, putting at risk the annual migration of the iconic butterfly from Canada through the U.S. to Mexico.
The White House said its strategy, which includes added research funding, also advances commitments to increase and improve pollinator habitat, both directly, through management of federal land and facilities, and indirectly, though interactions with state and local governments, the private sector and citizens. It added that the plan is aimed at “reducing the impact of multiple stressors on pollinator health, including pests and pathogens, reduced habitat, lack of nutritional resources and exposure to pesticides.”
Under the plan, EPA must issue for public comment a proposed prohibition on foliar application of pesticides during contracted pollinator services by December 2015.
EPA will also accelerate a review of the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators, and plans to complete them by the end of 2017.
CropLife America (CLA) said it welcomes the release of the White House Strategy and praised the task force for creating a “multi-pronged, coordinated approach.” At the same time it defended the responsible use of pesticides.
“Ongoing research and field studies have consistently found no adverse effects on bee colonies when pesticides are applied according to label directions,” said Jay Vroom, CLA's president and CEO, in a news release.
Vroom referred to “early reports from unnamed sources” that said EPA will accelerate its timeline for further scientific evaluation of bee impacts for certain insecticides.
“We are skeptical of how sound science can be ‘sped up' for this evaluation and look forward to a reasoned dialogue with EPA on that point,” said Vroom.
Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP, said Bayer was “particularly encouraged” by the government's commitment to invest more in research.
“Everything from grower decisions, consumer choice and regulatory actions must be based on sound science, and the Strategy's call for more research will ensure that we have the best science available.”
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