Scientists Release Landmark 'Worldwide Assessment' of Bee-Harming Pesticides, Call for Global Action

Center for Food Safety     Press Release    June 24, 2014

9 scientists review over 800 peer-reviewed publications and urge more restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides

Following last week’s celebration of “National Pollinator Week” and aPresidential Memorandum to kick-start federal action on bees, the first wide-scale analysis of two classes of pesticides linked to declining bee populations was released early today.

The “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA)” — undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides — documents significant harms to bees and ecosystems. Global scientists are calling for new, dramatic restrictions on bee-harming pesticides in the United States and beyond. The report also suggests that the current regulatory system has failed to capture the range of impacts of these pesticide products. 

“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 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 report will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research and is being released at events in Brussels, Manila, Montreal and Tokyo over the next two days. It underscores that neonicotinoid pesticides and their breakdown products are persistent and harmful, even at very low levels.

“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.

“To save our invaluable pollinators, EPA, USDA 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.”

Neonicotinoids, highlighted in the report released today, 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), then later clothianidin (Bayer), thiamethoxam (Syngenta) and dinotefuran 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.

This past year was another challenging one for farmers and beekeepers, with beekeepers reporting average losses of over 45%.

“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.”

Over the past few years, advocacy groups and beekeepers have filed legal petitions and lawsuits with EPA, calling on the agency to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.  Yet, over two years later, the agency has refused and indicated it will not finish its review for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, until 2018. Meanwhile, environmental regulators in Europe instituted a 2-year moratorium on the chemicals last December based on the evidence from independent studies.

In addition to bees, the report highlights the far-reaching impacts of neonicotinoids on entire ecosystems, from direct exposure to persistence in soil and water. Bumble bees, butterflies and other pollinators that serve both agriculture and provide ecosystem support services are also in jeopardy from these pesticides.

In addition to neonicotinoids, the report also focuses on the insecticide fipronil, which is also linked to impacts on bees and has been targeted by European regulators for an additional ban.

Today’s report underscores previous summaries of scientific studies on the impact of pesticides on pollinators, including those compiled by groups like Pesticide Action NetworkCenter for Food Safety, the Xerces Society and American Bird Conservancy.

Read at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/3255/scientists-release-landmark-worldwide-assessment-of-bee-harming-pesticides-call-for-global-action

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!