Earth to EPA: Bees need help now
Over 1.5 million people around the world have raised their voices on behalf of honey bees – urging officials to take decisive, precautionary action by suspending a suspect class of pesticides (neonicotinoids) known to undermine honey bee immunity.
Following the “leaked memo” in December, 20,000+ PAN supporters petitioned EPA to pull clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) until the science supporting its registration is re-done right and in partnership with practicing beekeepers.
EPA responded, agreeing to move up their review of this family of pesticides and improve the science behind bee decisions (which is good!), while declining to take action on a timeline that will be meaningful for bees or beekeepers. We don’t have the 5+ years it will take for either of these decisions to play out – EPA needs to hear this. Join the global movement to protect bees by signing this petition, and learning more about the issue.
Each year since 2006, U.S. beekeepers have lost between 29% and 36% of their hives and the situation shows no signs of improvement. We are writing to urge EPA to make full use of its powers to take decisive action.
Annual honey bee losses of a third cannot be sustained – either economically, or environmentally. Honey bee pollination services in the U.S. alone are estimated at over $15 billion per year – and the crop acreage requiring these services stands at an all-time high. As we are sure the Agency appreciates, recent honey bee and other pollinator die offs present an imminent hazard for U.S. agriculture. Furthermore, conservation biologists tell us that bees are a keystone, indicator species. Their decline points to, and will likely precipitate, larger ecosystem degradation.
Much has been made of the controversy surrounding these die offs. Whether we describe recent declines as Colony Collapse Disorder, or some other category of hive health decline, the fact remains that U.S. honey bees are in unprecedented peril and the time for urgent, precautionary action is now. Since one of the known co-factors undermining hive health is pesticide exposure, and pesticide regulation remains the statutory responsibility of the EPA, addressing this situation is fully within the Agency’s remit.
We therefore urge EPA to take immediate decisive action on two fronts:
1) Harm reduction through better risk management. Specifically, fund enforcement measures that cash-strapped states cannot reasonably be expected to prioritize right now. Label guidelines and use restrictions like not spraying while a pollinator-dependent crop is in bloom are meaningless without enforcement and beekeepers tell us that infringements like these happen regularly.
And because the core issue is not likely one of misapplication, but rather unavoidable exposure to persistent, systemic insecticides, particularly in combination with other pesticides, we would re-iterate a request made of this agency by many consumer, beekeeper and environmentalist groups from around the country:
2) Pull, seriously restrict and/or refuse new uses for three particularly suspect neonicotinoid insecticides: imidacloprid, thiomethoxam and clothianidin. These pesticides are known to be particularly toxic to honey bees, persist for years in the soil and because they are applied as seed treatments on everything from corn and canola to almonds and pome fruits, chronic exposure in the field is difficult if not impossible to control.
While we appreciate EPA’s recent acknowledgment of the need for more comprehensive pollinator field testing guidelines, as well as your commitment to re-evaluate these neonicotinoids on an accelerated schedule – the multi-year timelines of both processes mean that neither response constitutes a meaningful remedy for bees or beekeepers. Further, we submit that practicing beekeepers, rather than the pesticide industry, should be full partners in designing, evaluating and implementing the study guidelines that inform pollinator risk assessment for these and other pesticides.
With thanks in advance for your attention to this urgent matter,