WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 – In anticipation of a federal plan to improve pollinator health, the Organic Consumers Association hosted a rally outside the White House today to encourage the Obama Administration to restrict or ban the use of certain pesticides in order to “save the bees.”
“Hey Obama, don’t be a hater; save a pollinator!” chanted the group of about 40 people, which included representatives from the American Sustainable Business Council, Green America and Beyond Pesticides.
In June, President Barack Obama established the Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The task force is charged with developing a National Pollinator Strategy. The task force missed its December deadline for the report, but is expected to make an announcement soon. Beyond Pesticides insists that the plan must “eliminate toxic chemicals.”
Roger Williams, president of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, praised the Obama Administration during the rally for pushing every agency to come up with ways to improve pollinator health, but said “it’s not enough,” and the government must act to limit the use of neonicotinoids. He claimed the insecticides, which are most commonly used as a seed treatment on corn and soybean seeds—are “building up…and creating millions of acres of poisoned potting soil.”
The activists are reacting to a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), a syndrome in which worker bees from a honey bee colony abruptly disappear, which gained public attention about a decade ago. Most studies attribute bee losses to multiple factors, including the damaging effects of the varroa mite, the loss of forage and nutrition, as well as pesticide use. In 2005, over-winter losses of honey bees ranged from 30-50 percent, but beekeepers are still losing 30 percent, according to Gordon Wardell, the senior bee biologist at Paramount Farming Co. in Bakersfield, California, who spoke last month at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.
Environmental groups are putting pressure on the EPA to reign in agricultural chemical companies on the production and use of neonicotinoids, but according to OCA, “the administration is being lobbied hard by Bayer, Syngenta and other big chemical companies to not take action on pesticides.”
Bayer, Syngenta and Valent U.S.A. commissioned a study from AgInfomatics, which concludes that if neonicotinoids are banned, growers and horticulturalists will turn to older, more toxic chemicals that must be applied more heavily—likely causing further damage to the environment and pollinators.
Agricultural companies and groups are encouraging government agencies to work with beekeepers in providing access to federal- and state-owned land with healthy forage for pollinators. The Pollinator Partnership, which works with government and industry partners to deliver conservation and research, promotes the Highways BEE Act, or H.R. 4790, introduced in Congress last year. The bill supports conservation practices on 17 million acres of highway rights-of-way by encouraging willing state transportation departments to reduce mowing and plant for pollinators.
In solidarity with the honey bee rally near the White House, Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., on Wednesday reintroduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act. The bill would require EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids until the agency can review the registration for the insecticides and declare that they do not cause adverse effects to honey bees or other pollinators.
“The EPA plans to wait until 2018 before reviewing the registration of neonicotinoids. But America’s bees cannot wait three more years. Neither can the thousands of farmers that rely on pollinators,” Conyers said.
Registration review – the periodic re-evaluation of pesticides to determine if they continue to meet safety standards – can result in EPA discontinuing certain uses, placing limits on the pesticide registration, and requiring other label changes.
In the meantime, the OCA and other pollinator activists will continue pressing the government to “save our hives; keep bees alive!” through regulatory restrictions.
For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com