President Obama, Bees Need Decisive Action

Pesticide Action Network   July 3, 2014

Make Sure the New Federal Strategy for Bees Addresses Pesticides

Did you hear? President Obama recently announced a new federal task force to "promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators." Let’s make sure it makes a difference.

It’s encouraging that the White House recognizes the importance of bees for food, farming and our economy. But we need to ensure this task force results in real, long-lasting protections for pollinators — and we need your help to deliver this message loud and clear.

Bees need protections that count» In the President’s memo he emphasizes public education, additional research and habitat expansion. All important, to be sure. But there isn’t much clarity about how the task force will address one of the primary threats to bees and other pollinators: pesticide exposure.

Numerous independent studies clearly show a link between pesticides and bee declines, with neonicotinoids (or “neonics”) leading the pack of bee-toxic chemicals. Not only can neonics kill bees outright, but they can impair bee brain function and suppress immunity to common pathogens in smaller doses. And they’re the most widely used insecticides in the world.

Studies show neonics are also harmful to other pollinators like birds and butterflies, with enough pesticide on one single neonic-coated seed to kill a songbird.

Based on the growing body of evidence, including a newly released “worldwide assessment” of the impact of neonics, scientists around the globe are calling for immediate action to restrict the use of neonics. Are U.S. decisionmakers listening?

The science is clear. Time for action» While the European Union and other governments have taken decisive action to protect pollinators based on the emerging scientific evidence, U.S. policymakers have been doggedly slow to act. Time for that to change!

Urge President Obama to ensure that the new pollinator task force steps up and enacts meaningful and rapid protections for bees. Pesticides are a very real threat to bee health that urgently needs to be addressed.

Thanks for keeping this important issue front and center.

Gillibrand urges help for stressed bee population

Press Republican     3/2/14

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to bolster its efforts to revive New York’s bee population after a year when beekeepers lost on average 30 percent of their hives to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) hurting New York farms’ ability to pollinate crops.

Earlier this month, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack directed $3 million to study bee losses in the Midwest. Gillibrand is urging the USDA to expand their investigation to New York and the Northeast. 

“New York’s farms rely on a strong and healthy bee population to pollinate our fruit and vegetable crops,” she said. “The alarming decline of the bee population comes at a steep price for our environment, our farms and our economy.”

New York State has an estimated 52,000 beehives, each of which produce approximately 51 pounds of honey, ranking the state 10th in honey production. Bee pollination supports blueberries, cherries, squash and other fruits and vegetables. Apple trees require two to three hives per acre to pollinate. Bee pollination adds an estimated $300 million value to a $4.4 billion agriculture industry in New York. 

Throughout the U.S., a staggering 45 percent of beehives were lost just last year.

The pollination initiative would be implemented by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a branch of USDA, from their field offices in New York State. NRCS conservation experts would provide New York farmers with the technical and financial resources to provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment. For example, planting certain cover crops provides a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as habitat for other wildlife.

Go to Farm Briefs and scroll down to article...

Read Senator Gillbrand's Letter

Broad Coalition Uses Full Pags Ads - Awareness on Pollination Declines

(The following is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.) 

Broad Coalition focuses Awareness on Pollinator Declines

December 2, 2013--Today, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network, supported by Ceres Trust and joined by more than 60 other organizations, launched a national media campaign to bring attention to the severity of pollinator declines due in part to the use of bee-harming pesticides. The campaign launch was timed to coincide with the beginning of the European Union’s two-year moratorium on three of the most potent neonicotinoids, which began yesterday. A copy of the ad is available at www.save-bees.org.

As part of the national media campaign, full page ads were released in seven newspapers today, including the New York Times, citing the urgency and impact of bee declines and encouraging the public to call on EPA to take action.

“We hope this national media campaign will spur public action to combat this major threat to the environment and to our food system. We must protect bees and other pollinators from these harmful pesticides that EPA has so far failed to safeguard them from,” said Larissa Walker, policy and campaign coordinator for Center for Food Safety.

Never before has such a broad coalition of organizations come together to support pollinator protection. The breadth of the coalition highlights the importance of pollinators to so many, including beekeepers, farmers, policy makers, faith groups, consumer groups and anyone who eats food.

"Protecting bees and pollinators is an urgent matter that must bring our nation together to balance our need for a bountiful food production system and a sustainable environment," said Jay Feldman, executive director for Beyond Pesticides.

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are valued at over $125 billion. In the United States alone, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually.

"Honey bees play a crucial role in pollinating the world's food crops," said Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield, and one of the ad signatories. "So protecting bees from pesticides is not only good for bees, but also for business; the loss of honey bees is a direct threat to the ability of farmers and food companies to deliver diverse, nutritional foods."

In recent years, a number of scientific studies have linked bee declines to pesticide use. In particular, a class of systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids have been found to harm bees — both alone and in combination with other pesticides. Neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” are often used as seed treatments and sprays on a variety of crops and ornamental plants. Even though several countries, including the entire European Union, have taken action to restrict the use of neonicotinoids, the U.S. still allows their widespread use.

“Beekeepers are losing colonies at an unprecedented rate – the losses are too extreme to keep up with, and our entire industry is at risk of collapse unless federal action is taken. Convening conferences and changing pesticide labels is lip service and window dressing to the issue, but has no substance,” said New York beekeeper Jim Doan.

Today’s ad not only brings attention to this growing issue, but leads readers to the Save-The-Bees website where they can take further action, such as supporting current legislation in Congress, contacting EPA or planting pollinator habitat in their own communities.

“The EU reviewed hundreds of scientific studies and concluded that a two year moratorium was a necessary first step. The U.S. has failed to even come close to that standard, ” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “EPA should follow the science and take action to protect bees from harmful pesticides.”

Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, and Pesticide Action Network are coordinating efforts to reverse the troubling trend of pollinator decline through legal, policy and grassroots efforts.

The ad also appeared in the Boston Globe, the Washington PostPoliticoMinneapolis Star Tribune, the Des Moines Register and the Los Angeles Times.

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Beyond Pesticides, founded in 1981, works with allies in protecting public health and the environment by identifying the hazards of chemical-intensive land, building and community management practices and promoting healthy, sustainable and organic systems. More information can be found at www.beyondpesticides.org.

Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. More information can be found atwww.centerforfoodsafety.org

The Ceres Trust, whose name honors the ancient goddess of agriculture, provides grants that support: research in organic agriculture at universities and to graduate students; education to create careers in the production and processing of certified organic food; programs to eliminate pesticide exposure and GMO contamination; and efforts to preserve crop biodiversity and public access to seeds. www.cerestrust.org.

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America works to replace hazardous pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to insure the transition to a just and viable society. More information can be found at www.panna.org.

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The following is from Paul Towers (Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America): 

As you know, bees are in trouble. And so is the diversity of our food system if we don't do something to protect bees that pollinate our nation's crops. Yesterday marked the first day of a 2-year moratorium on bee-harming pesticides in Europe. But US EPA has been slow to do the same.

So we're ratcheting up the pressure on EPA. Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and PAN, with support from the Ceres Trust and a broad coalition of supporters, are calling on the agency to follow Europe's lead with a full-page an advertisement today in seven major newspapers across the country, including the New York Times. And we need your help to spread the word to people all across the country.
 
Here's my blog that explains it a bit more: http://www.panna.org/blog/epa-protect-bees

And here are some simple steps you can take:

(1) Visit www.save-bees.org: Please sign the petition to urge EPA to take action. It's easy and important. 
  
(2) Add your group to the list of supporters. Please email me back if your organization or business would like to be added to the supporter list for save-bees.org. Let's grow an even bigger and broader coalition of folks demanding action from EPA.
                                                                                             Thanks for your support!

 

Farm Bill's Good and Bad Sides

(The following is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)

May 24, 2013 

From Michele Colopy, Program Director, National Pollinator Defense Fund

As you know the Farm Bill is working its way through Congress. What is surprising are the number of amendments (there are now over 300). Some are positive, and others appear problematic. Though not all amendments make it to the final Farm Bill please take time to read the following:   

The positive: Senator Barbara Boxer has proposed the following amendment that would:

1.   Create an interagency task force on bee health and commercial beekeeping

2.   Encourage a more proactive approach to protecting pollinator health at U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency; and

3.    Require feasibility studies for modernizing one current ARS honey bee research laboratory, and establishing one new ARS pollinator research laboratory.

(See the attached Boxer amendment)

The problematic:

Senate Amendment 984. Senator Fischer, Senator Carper, and Senator Johanns submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by Senator Fischer to Senate bill 954, to reauthorize agricultural programs through 2018; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: on page 1050, after line 23, her amendment would add the following:

SEC. 10013. IMPORTATION OF SEED.

Section 17(c) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136o(c)) is amended-- (1) by striking ``The Secretary'' and inserting the following:``(1) In general.--The Secretary''; and (2) by adding at the end the following:``(2) Importation of seed.--For purposes of this   subsection, seed, including treated seed,shall not be considered to be a pesticide or device. ``(3) Applicability.--Nothing in this subsection precludes or limits the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to the importation or movement of plants, plant products, or seeds under-- ``(A) the Plant Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 7701 et seq.); and ``(B) the Federal Seed Act (7 U.S.C. 1551 et seq.).''.

Regrettably there have been incidences of bee kills when seed treatment dust has killed bee hives.  It appears that item number 2 of the Fischer amendment codifies seed treatments as a non-application of pesticides. The Farm Bill is moving fast through the Congress.  If seed treatments are not regulated as a “pesticide,” what will be the recourse for bee kills such as the one recently in Minnesota.  For video results of this bee kill select this link,    http://youtu.be/xxXXaILuK5s.

The Farm Bill reauthorization and amendments such as the Boxer Amendment, and the line concerning seed treatments will be voted upon soon, possibly before the Memorial Day Weekend recess.  Please call or email your Senators and Representatives today, and voice your opinions. 

 

 

 

Europe Steps Up For Bees. EPA, Your Turn

Pesticide Action Network   5/2/13

In a historic vote on Monday, the European Union (EU) passed a continent-wide restriction on the use of bee-harming pesticides. Despite immense pressure from the pesticide industry, a majority of EU countries sided with bees.

Here in the U.S., policymakers have yet to step up. And with beekeepers in this country reporting record-breaking bee losses this year — up to 40% or more — action to protect honey bees is more urgent than ever.

The EU vote comes after significant findings by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) that neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) in particular pose an unacceptable risk to bees.

With a simple majority of 15 nations voting in support of the neonic ban on Monday, it didn't gain the required “qualified majority.” Protocol in this instance leaves the final decision to the European Commission, which has signaled full support. As stated by Tonio Borg, Health and Consumer Commissioner:

"I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion annually to European agriculture, are protected."

With the European Commission's backing, the two-year ban will go into effect in December, restricting the use of bee-harming neonics clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam throughout the EU.

Industry shenanigans

While powerful grassroots support of bee-protective policies has been growing, the prospect of restrictions on use of their pesticide products prompted a "fierce behind-the-scenes campaign" from Bayer and Syngenta. Bayer manufactures clothianidin and imidacloprid, while Syngenta produces thiamethoxam.

As reported in The Guardian:

The chemical companies, which make billions from the products, have lobbied hard, with Syngenta even threatening to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing a report that found the pesticides posed an unacceptable risk to bees.

Other pressure tactics employed by the pesticide industry include distorting scientific findings, blaming harms to bees on farmers and convening with decisionmakers behind closed doors.

More work to do

While the new EU ban is a huge victory for bees — and the network of organizations and individuals working for bee-protective policies throughout Europe — there is more work to be done. Referencing the fact that the ban will expire in two years, Keith Tyrell, executive director of PAN-UK, released the following statement:

“Whilst we welcome the EU vote as a significant step forward, we are dismayed that it is only a temporary half measure which goes nowhere near far enough in protecting our bees and other vital pollinators from the harm of neonicotinoid pesticides."

Here in the U.S., policymakers have yet to take decisive action on behalf of bees. While loss of habitat, pathogens and nutrition all play a role in bee die-offs, a growing body of scientific evidence points to pesticides as a key catalyst. And since neonics are a known factor, policymakers can (and should) address the issue. Quickly.

As PAN spokesperson Paul Towers says, time is of the essence:

"Unless U.S. officials act soon, bee populations may not recover, threatening the livelihood of beekeepers and the agricultural economies that rely on pollination and honey production.”

Bees pollinate one in three bites of food we eat and sustain our agricultural economy. We all rely on them daily, and they are in dire need of help. EPA, time to step up.

http://www.panna.org/blog/europe-steps-bees-epa-your-turn

Take Action » Urge EPA to protect bees from harmful pesticides. The science linking pesticides to bee die-offs is only getting stronger. And bees are getting sicker. Protecting these vital pollinators is more urgent than ever. 

http://action.panna.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13289

 

Take the Survey: Deadline extended to April 30, 2013

Bee Informed Partnership

Due to an overwhelming request from northern and western beekeepers who have not had adequate good weather opportunities to inspect all their colonies, the Bee Informed Partnership is extending the National Online Winter Loss and Management Survey until April 30th.  It is hoped this allows many more beekeepers to participate and join the thousands who have already participated.  All beekeepers are encouraged to take the survey and Bee Culture and Bee Informed thanks those who have already taken the time to join the team!

Click the link and take the survey! 

http://10.selectsurvey.net/beeinformed/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=BIP2012

 

Beekeepers and Public Interest Groups Sue EPA Over Bee-Toxic Pesticides

Bee Culture - Catch the Buzz   By Kim Flottum     3/21/13

Lawsuit seeks to address bee Colony Collapse Disorder and demands EPA protect livelihoods, rural economies and environment

Today, a year after groups formally petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), four beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the agency for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides.  The coalition, represented by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), seeks suspension of the registrations of insecticides that have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).  The suit challenges EPA’s ongoing handling of the pesticides as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration” and labeling deficiencies. 

“America’s beekeepers cannot survive for long with the toxic environment EPA has supported. Bee-toxic pesticides in dozens of widely used products, on top of many other stresses our industry faces, are killing our bees and threatening our livelihoods,” said plaintiff Steve Ellis, a Minnesota and California beekeeper. “Our country depends on bees for crop pollination and honey production.  It’s time for EPA to recognize the value of bees to our food system and agricultural economy.” 

The suit comes on the heels of a challenging season for California’s almond farmers, who produce 80% of the world’s almonds.  Almond growers rely on beekeepers to bring literally billions of bees from across the country to pollinate their orchards.  However, many beekeepers are reporting losses of over 50% this year and the shortages have left many California almond growers without enough bees to effectively pollinate their trees.  This is a vivid demonstration of why the Plaintiffs are demanding EPA to classify these bee-toxic pesticides as an “imminent hazard” and move swiftly to restrict their use.     

The pesticides involved — clothianidin and thiamethoxam — are “neonicotinoids,” 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.  Clothianidin and thiamethoxam first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s, at the same time beekeepers started observing widespread cases of colony losses, leaving beekeepers unable to recoup their losses.

“Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees.  The agency has refused, so we’ve been compelled to sue,” said Center for Food Safety attorney, Peter T. Jenkins.  “EPA’s unlawful actions should convince the Court to suspend the approvals for clothianidin and thiamethoxam products until those violations are resolved.”

The case also challenges the use of so-called “conditional registrations” for these pesticides, which expedites commercialization by bypassing meaningful premarket review.  Since 2000, over two-thirds of pesticide products, including clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have been brought to market as conditional registrations.

“Pesticide manufacturers use conditional registrations to rush bee-toxic products to market, with little public oversight,” said Paul Towers, a spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network. “As new independent research comes to light, the agency has been slow to re-evaluate pesticide products and its process, leaving bees exposed to an ever-growing load of hazardous pesticides.”

In addition, the plaintiffs challenge the inadequacies of existing pesticide labels meant to ensure environmental and health protections.  “EPA has ignored its responsibility to protect bees by allowing impractical labels and lax enforcement,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. “Despite clear evidence and on-the-ground feedback to the contrary, EPA has failed to ensure that bees, birds and ecosystems are protected.”

Independent scientists have assessed the effects of clothianidin and thiamethoxam on honey bee colony health and development, examining both sub-lethal exposure effects and acute risks. Scientists have also identified massive data gaps that prevent accurate assessments as to their continued safety, not just for honey bees but for ecosystem integrity on the whole.  A major new report issued this week by the American Bird Conservancy, The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birdssounds dire warnings about EPA’s failures to assess threats to birds and to the aquatic ecosystems many species depend upon. 

In March 2012, CFS and a coalition of prominent beekeepers, along with Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides filed an Emergency Petition with the EPA asking the agency to suspend the use of clothianidin.  Yet, a year later, the agency has refused and indicated it will not finish its Registration Review for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, until 2018.

Plaintiffs include four beekeepers, Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co. (MN, CA), Jim Doan of Doan Family Farms (NY), Tom Theobald of Niwot Honey Farm (CO) and Bill Rhodes of Bill Rhodes Honey (FL) as well as Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Sierra Club, and the Center for Environmental Health.

This ezine is also available online at http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2013.03.21.10.42.archive.html

(The above is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)