California Considers Plant Warning Labels as Walmart & True Value Commit to Phasing Out Bee-Killing Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network North America  For Immediate Release May 3, 2017

Facing pressure from the pesticide lobby, California’s Pollinator Protection Act (SB 602) would create consistent and clear labels for seeds and plants pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides.

Sacramento, CA – As California considers legislation that would provide labels for seeds and plants that are pre-treated or pre-coated with bee-harming pesticides, two major retailers — True Value and Walmart — announced steps today to phase out the use of the products in their supply chain.  

“Despite pressure from the pesticide industry, gardeners and retailers are responding to the science. As two more major retailers commit to phasing out neonicotinoid pesticides on plants they sell, California legislators have an opportunity to create clear and consistent labels to allow consumers to purchase plants that are better for bees,” said Paul Towers, organizing director and policy advocate at PAN.  

California’s Pollinator Protection Act (Senate Bill 602, Allen-Wiener) would require mandatory labeling for any seed or plant that has been pre-coated or pre-treated with neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” But the legislation has faced significant opposition from pesticide manufacturers, and some industrial agricultural interest groups, that challenge both the science behind bee declines and the preponderance of evidence linking pollinator die-offs to pesticide exposure, among other factors.  

“It is great to see well-known retailers taking action to phase out products that include these harmful pesticides. I look forward to the passage of SB 602 so that California can enact a similar policy statewide,” said Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), a lead author of the bill, which is sponsored by Bee Smart California, a coalition of beekeepers, farmers, food and environmental organizations dedicated to protecting bees and other pollinators.  

Testing analyses conducted by PAN North America, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety and the Pesticide Research Institute in 20132014 and 2016demonstrated the presence of bee-toxic neonics in more than half of bee-attractive flowers tested. The 2016 analysis found that 23 percent of flowers and trees tested nationally — and 15 percent tested in California — contain neonicotinoid insecticides at levels that can harm or kill bees. And all of the nursery plant samples where neonics were detected had the potential to harm or even kill bees.  

Large retailers Home Depot and Lowe's already made commitments to phase out use of these pesticides, and have also started to provide some form of labeling. Last year’s data demonstrated that these two companies are making progress toward that goal. With today’s news, True Value will phase out neonics on plants and products by 2018 and Walmart has already removed neonics from 80 percent of their flowering plants and nearly all of their products. 

“The actions taken by these national retailers show that there is broadening support for reducing and eliminating use of these awful pesticides. We need to continue to work to prevent the rapid and unprecedented collapse of bee colonies, which is threatening food security in the entire country, by enacting policies like SB 602,” said Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), co-author of the bill.    

Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey found 74 percent of growers who supply mass merchants and home improvement chains said they would not use neonicotinoid insecticides in 2016. 

“With today’s announcement, fewer nurseries and garden stores are selling plants pre-treated with systemic neonicotinoid insecticides,” said Terry Oxford, a beekeeper with UrbanBeeSF. “Yet it’s still not possible for gardeners and landscapers to be sure that the seeds, plants and trees they select at the store will be safe for bees and other pollinators. Labels would provide that level of security. California legislators should support SB 602.”  

Bees and other pollinators, essential for every one in three bites of food we eat, are in great peril. The United Nations estimates that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species, including bees and butterflies, are on the brink of extinction. Research indicates that bee-harming neonicotinoids are a primary factor of declining populations. These insecticides have been responsible for several high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, and a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to bees’ impaired reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications and immune response at doses far below those that are lethal.   

Contact: Paul Towers, PAN, 916-216-1082, sends e-mail)

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America works to create a just, thriving food system. For too long, pesticide and biotech corporations have dictated how we grow food, placing the health and economic burdens of pesticide use on farmers, farmworkers and rural communities. PAN works with those on the frontlines to tackle the pesticide problem — and reclaim the future of food and farming.

EPA, Protect Bees From Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network      TAKE ACTION

After many years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally taking a closer look at how neonicotinoid pesticides impact bees and other pollinators.  In the first of four assessments the agency has promised this year, it was clear they are still missing the forest for the trees. 

EPA’s initial findings on Bayer’s imidacloprid skipped over both the impacts of pesticide exposures over time, and the effects of multiple pesticides in combination. 

They also ignored the critical issue of neonic seed coatings, the most widespread use of these bee-harming pesticides. As we know from many studies, seed coatings are a primary source of exposure for bees and other pollinators. 

Join us in keeping the pressure on EPA to address these issues — and take meaningful action to protect bees from harmful pesticides.



Bees Threatened By A Common Pesticide, EPA Finds

Los Angeles Times    By Geoffrey Mohan   January 6, 2016

A queen bee is seen in the center of a hive. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that imidacloprid, a nicotine-imitating chemical found in at least 188 farm and household products in California, “potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators.”

The EPA's decision was prompted by increasing concern that the chemicals might be contributing to the sudden collapse of commercial honey bee colonies over the last decade. Those bees pollinate crucial food crops and contribute about $14 billion in value to the agricultural economy nationwide.

This is the first of four risk assessments conducted by the EPA on the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. The rest are slated for completion by the end of the year, after which the agency could tighten controls over the insecticides.

“Clearly, as a result of this, there might be more restrictions coming,” said Charlotte Fadipe, spokeswoman for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

California's almond crop, valued at about $7 billion, is completely dependent on nearly 1 million commercial hives brought in to pollinate about 870,000 acres of trees. Other crops that depend strongly on commercial honeybee colonies include oranges and grapefruits, blueberries, cherries, alfalfa, apples, avocados, cucumbers, onions, cantaloupe, cranberries, pumpkins and sunflowers.

The single biggest user, however, was the predominantly urban structural pest control industry, which applied nearly 37 tons, according to the agency.

Several studies have linked high levels of neonicotinoids to decreased foraging, failures of queen bees, breakdowns in hive communication and other colony-threatening phenomena. Last year, however, a study suggested that exposure to levels of the pesticide expected on most farms would pose no significant negative effects on bee colonies.

Many factors have been blamed for the bee die-offs: exposure to multiple pesticides, poor hive management practices and natural pathogens such as mites and viruses. Although full-scale colony collapses have largely abated over the last several years, bees are continuing to die at a higher-than-normal rate. The USDA last year reported winter colony losses of about 23%, based on a survey of beekeepers. A winter decline of about 19% is considered normal.

The EPA and its research partners weighed evidence from several hundred scientific studies before concluding that chemical traces of more than 25 parts per billion on plants probably will harm bees.

Last year, the agency halted approval of any new outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides until it completes a full risk assessment. It also has proposed banning use of any pesticide found to be toxic to bees while crops are in bloom and commercial colonies are present.

Bayer CropScience said the EPA's assessment “appears to overestimate the potential for harmful exposures in certain crops, such as citrus and cotton, while ignoring the important benefits these products provide and management practices to protect bees.”

The company added that it hoped the agency further considers “the best available science, as well as a proper understanding of modern pest management practices.”

Pesticide industry advocates said it was premature to talk about a ban on the chemical.

“I think there's a lot more work to be done, but we're pretty confident that the product is ultimately going to be found safe either as registered or with potentially any mitigation measures that need to be added,” said Renee Pinel, president of the Western Plant Health Assn. in Sacramento.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, chided EPA for not broadening its investigation beyond the honey bee, to the more than 4,000 wild bee species, and to other pollinators, including butterflies and bats.

“You can't claim to do a ‘pollinator risk assessment' and really only look at one pollinator, the honeybee,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director of the group. “That's not only cheating on the purpose of this work but also cheating the native bees, birds, butterflies and other species threatened by this pesticide.”

Two other groups, the Center for Food Safety and the Pesticide Action Network, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against EPA, seeking tighter regulation of seeds coated in neonicotinoids.

Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota beekeeper and plaintiff in the suit, said EPA “didn't say anything of substance” and did not commit to changing any regulations on neonicotinoids.

Anderson rents hives to California almond growers, then to growers of cherries, apples and blueberries, before bringing them back to Minnesota for honey production in the late spring and summer. There, he has lost as much as 50% of his 3,000 bees, at a time when coated seeds are planted and cultivated.

Dust from the seeds can spread the pesticide, which also is taken up into the plant, and can be detected in its nectar and pollen, said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, which pushes for conservation of insects.

“You really can't look at total risk to pollinators without looking at seed coating, and you really can't look at total risk to pollinators without looking at the 4,000 or so other species,” Black said.

Swing & A Miss on Bee Harming Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network   May 28, 2015

Once again, it looks like federal decisionmakers are sidestepping the issue of bee-harming pesticides. The Pollinator Health Task Force, launched almost a year ago by President Obama, released its strategy for addressing pollinator declines last week — without tackling the pesticide problem.

While the plan sets an ambitious goal for reining in honey bee losses, and calls for state plans to increase habitat for pollinators, it fails to directly address the impact of neonicotinoids and other insecticides, despite crystal clear science that these chemicals are impacting pollinators. 


Call on your Rep. to support the Saving America's Pollinators Act! Help get neonicotinoids and other bee-toxic pesticides off the shelf.Act Now

The creation of this inter-agency task force — led jointly by USDA and EPA — signaled a renewed commitment at the federal level to address the crisis facing bees and other pollinators. And while regulators were formulating their new strategy, more than four million beekeepers, farmers, scientists and concerned advocates across the country urged them to directly and meaningfully address the issue of bee-toxic pesticides.

Unfortunately, the plan falls short.

Goals without a plan

The task force strategy focuses on three goals:

  1. Reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels;
  2. Increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and
  3. Restore or enhance millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

All important, certainly. But it's unclear how regulators intend to meet their goal of reducing annual honey bee losses to an "economically sustainable" average of 15% — commonplace for healthy hives — when losses in recent years have hovered around 30-40% or more.

Recent reports show that last year's bee losses were the second worst on record for U.S. beekeepers.

An ever growing body of independent science shows that neonics and other pesticides play a critical role in declining bee populations. Without action on pesticides, the problem will persist.

In a media statement last week, PAN organizer Lex Horan put it this way:

“A lopsided federal policy that takes decisive action on habitat, mites and other issues, while remaining stuck on pesticides, will not turn the tide on bee declines.”

Read at:

125+ Groups Call on President Obama to Protect Bees, Pollinators from Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network   Press Release   March 2, 2015

Washington, DC — More than 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups today urged President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to take swift and meaningful action to protect honey bees and other pollinators from toxic pesticides.

“It’s time to stop pesticides from killing our bees,” said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If bees and other pollinators are going to have a real future in this country, President Obama needs to take concrete steps to protect them from these toxic substances.”

The letter urges the president to take action against a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, systemic poisons that are devastating bee populations. They are also threatening the nation's food supply, since one-third of the food consumed in the United States is pollinated by bees.

Among other things the letter calls for...


Shaking Up the White House

Pesticide Action Network  By Paul Towers  February 4, 2015

As I spoke to a packed room at the EcoFarm Conference late last month, it was clear that many of us eagerly await the unveiling of the White House's new plan to protect bees. But if recent events are any indication, officials aren’t getting the message that pesticides are a key part of the problem. Just one day before my talk, EPA approved another bee-harming pesticide.

With this recent decision, it’s time to shake up the White House hive. No, not the beehive near the Obamas’ kitchen garden, but the politics that are blocking progress for the nation’s pollinators. It's the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health that's releasing a new plan, and they really need to get it right.

Scientific evidence very clearly links pesticides, especially persistent and systemic insecticides, to bee declines. And as EPA documents, these chemicals aren't much help to farmers anyway. That’s why EPA’s approval of a so-called “safer” pesticide that's virtually identical to other bee-harming pesticides on the market is so unnerving. It raises real concerns about what the plan from the EPA-chaired White House Task Force will contain.

What’s in a plan?


Urge the White House task force to enact real and rapid protections for honey bees.
 Act Now

As the White House announces its plan, they will need to reflect on the reality of the plight of bees, beekeepers and farmers alike. This means they can’t avoid addressing the role pesticides play. A comprehensive plan that supports a healthy food and farming system will have to immediately restrict use of systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids (neonics), and stop new, harmful products from coming to market. And it must include support and incentives to help farmers shift to more sustainable farming practices.

Some of the concepts being bandied about don’t go nearly far enough, and tend to put the burden on beekeepers, rather than on pesticide manufacturers and federal regulators.

Here are a few ideas that are worth calling out as wholly inadequate:

  • State pollinator plans: The White House may rely more heavily on states in its new plan. As recent plans out of North Dakota and Florida show, this can place the burden heavily on beekeepers. Both these new state plans establish registries and 48-hour notification for beekeepers to move or cover hives from pesticide applications. In some states there are simply no “safe” areas for bees, given repeated applications on nearby fields — plus the persistence of many pesticides (especially neonicotinoids) in plants, soil and water. Forcing beekeepers to pick-up-and-leave also disrupts pollination and places more stress on bees.
  • Best management practices: When government officials don’t want to take meaningful action, they often fall back on "best management practices" (BMPs) — voluntary guidelines for growers and beekeepers alike. Numerous national stakeholder meetings have developed and recommended such guidelines — and while important, they can’t do enough to protect bees. Providing education and sharing learnings and best practices is certainly a good thing; but this can’t be the response to the dramatic bee declines we face today.
  • Weak label changes: Comprehensive label changes are not only good, but necessary. Unfortunately, changes to date have been unclear and largely unenforceable — and haven’t led to either bee protections or meaningful reductions in use of bee-harming pesticides. Future labels need to account for the presence of bees, address seed coatings and the residual pesticides on crops, consider bees not actively pollinating at the time of application, and specifically warn applicators about the impact of pesticide combinations.

Numerous organizations have offered recommendations for a meaningful plan, one that will protect bees and other pollinators. Hopefully the White House will take these seriously. And not a moment too soon.

Jeff Blain, a beekeeper just outside of Boise, Idaho called me as I was writing up this blog with an earful (printed with his permission) about last month’s approval of flupyradifurone:

“How could they let this new pesticide slide through? The lesson I learned from my grandfather is ‘don’t put things in you can’t take out.’ It’s clear that government officials aren’t paying attention and haven’t been doing their job as watchdogs. And it’s time they started paying attention to the harm [pesticides] are doing to small growers, beekeepers and bees.”

I’m with Jeff. We expect a strong plan from the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, one that meaningfully protects bees from harmful pesticides — and one that most certainly doesn't involve approval of any new, long-lasting, systemic pesticides.

EPA Approves Another Bee-Harming Pesticide

Pesticide Action Network    January 25, 2015  By Paul Towers

As concerns about bee declines mount, EPA announced earlier today the approval of another neonicotinoid pesticide, flupyradifurone. This chemical acts on the same nicotinyl acetylcholine receptors in bee’s brains that are now known to cause harmful effects. In its public statement about the pesticide registration, EPA called the pesticide “safer” than other neonics, contrary to evidence. The pesticide’s chemical structure is very similar to imidacloprid, another neonicotinoid which has been linked to bee-harming impacts, including decreased foraging, impaired mobility and impaired communication. That insecticide was approved by the agency in 1994.

Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist for Pesticide Action Network, released the following statement:

"EPA's decision to register yet another bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticide flies in the face of the science. The new insecticide, flupyradifurone, is virtually identical to its older counterparts, and a step in the wrong direction. The agency's own assessment points to problems with flupyradifurone, both alone and in combination with other pesticides."

"Instead of investing in meaningful solutions and truly safe alternatives, the agency continues to approve hazardous pesticides. Given the continuing dramatic declines in bee populations, and EPA's responsibility to lead the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, the agency should hardly be approving another bee-toxic pesticide for market."

Read at: PANNA

Make Sure the New Federal Strategy for Bees Addresses Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network       August 14, 2014

This Saturday, August 16, is National Honey Bee Day. To celebrate the occasion, will you join us in calling on President Obama for meaningful action to protect bees?

Earlier this summer, the President announced a new federal task force to "promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators." 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.

Read at and Take Action:

California Stung by Lawsuit to Protect Bees

Pesticide Action Network    By Paul Towers    July 8, 2014

They’re in our garden plants, sprayed on orchards throughout the state, and used as seed coatings on commodity crops in California and across the country. After five years of review, California officials have not only failed to complete an evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), they continue to allow more and more of these bee-harming chemicals into the market.

Fed up with the years of hand-sitting, PAN and our partners brought the state and pesticide manufacturers to court today.

PAN and partners at Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety warned the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) in February that they were violating the law by approving new neonics. They ignored our concerns, despite a mounting body of evidence showing harms to bees. We reminded them again in June, only to have the agency approve more pollinator-toxic products.

Our attorney Greg Loarie at Earthjustice summed up our decision to bring DPR to court pretty well:

“It’s past time for DPR to fix its broken evaluation system and protect our bees and our agricultural economy. It obviously will take legal action to accomplish this.”

Despite five years of review, the agency has yet to finish an evaluation of any neonic product. And over the past couple of years, state officials have either allowed significantly expanded use of neonics or brought new products to market in at least fifteen separate instances.

As I recently noted, this lack of action persists even as independent scientists from around the globe concluded — after review of over 800 studies — that it’s time for international action to restrict neonics and protect bees.

Beekeepers are weighing in too, demanding accountability. Todd Bebb, vice president of the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association and sponsor of bee-protective legislation in California, said:

“Bees are in trouble unless California officials do their part. Our food system, including farms and backyard gardens, rests on bees and beekeepers for continued pollination and support.”

While beekeepers and food and farming groups duke it out with state officials and pesticide manufacturers in court, the California legislature continues to move ahead with a bill that would force DPR to complete its evaluation of neonics on a specific timeline. That bill will be taken up after the July recess.

Local governments in Oregon and Washington have stepped up with bee-protective policies in recent months. And news out of Canada just this week is that at least one province is considering a licensing system to better regulate widespread use of the products.

With legal pressure building on California policymakers and related legislation on the horizon, it's time for the Golden State to get serious about protecting bees from harmful pesticides too.

Read at...

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.

Honey Bee Toolkit

Pesticide Action Network

Create a Bee Haven!  Talk to Neighbors!  Spread the Word!

While policymakers remain resolutely stuck — and have yet to take swift action to address theknown causes of bee die-offs — home gardeners, backyard beekeepers and concerned individuals across the country have been stepping up to protect our favorite pollinators.

This groundswell of support for bees is inspiring and important, but we need to keep building momentum — and we need to press for policy change.

Download the toolkit for simple tips and actions to help protect bees from harmful pesticides and keep the pressure on policymakers.

Whether you create a safe haven in your yard, write a letter to the editor, or chat with your neighbors about the importance of protecting pollinators, your actions will make a difference.

Every little bit counts!

Pesticide Action Network
Honey Bee Toolkit
Download the Toolkit

Let's Pass a Bill in CA!

Pesticide Action Network    4/3/14

Urge State Legislatures to Take Action for Bees

Spring is in the air, blossoms are blooming and bees are buzzing — but not enough of them. These vital pollinators are still in serious trouble, and federal policymakers are still dragging their feet.

It’s time for California to take the lead! Call on your state legislators to step up and support the new bee bill, AB 1789.

Follow the science & protect bees » Over the 2012/2013 winter, beekeepers reported record-breaking losses of 40% or more. While we don’t yet know the total losses for this winter, the science is increasingly clear: neonicotinoid pesticides (or “neonics”) are a key factor in declining bee populations. Urge your state legislator to support AB 1789, a bill to help protect bees.

California began its review of neonicotinoid pesticides back in 2009, but the state Department of Pesticide Regulation has yet to finish its evaluation and develop an action plan. AB 1789 sets a firm deadline to ensure this process stays on track.

Already, neonics have been linked to massive bee kills. And studies show that even at non-lethal doses, these pesticides can suppress bees’ immune systems and interfere with critical brain functions they need to navigate, forage and reproduce.

The problem of bee declines is a global one, and other countries have been stepping up. After being alerted by concerned scientists, the European Union instituted a two-year moratorium on the use of neonics in December of last year.

We need decisive action here, too.

Protect bees now » Bees are vital to our food and farming system, and they provide a critical service for California's agricultural economy. The state's almond industry — valued at about $3 billion — relies on honey bees to pollinate its orchards. When their work here is done, the bees move on to pollinate other crops around the country.

While other factors are also contributing to bee declines — like habitat loss, pathogens and nutrition — pesticides are playing a key role. And by passing this bill, state legislators will ensure California is on the right track to address the pesticide problem head on. With your help, we can convince policymakers to step up!

Thank you for bee-ing in action.

Building Buzz for Bees

Pesticide Action Network    3/20/14

Pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard bees continues to grow stronger. Today in DC, PAN joined partners to hand deliver a message from more than half a million people to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Step up and prioritize protecting bees from harmful pesticides.

Even though independent studies clearly show that neonicotinoid pesticides (or "neonics") are hazardous to bees, EPA won't conclude its review of these chemicals until 2018. Meanwhile, neonics are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. And bee populations continue to decrease at alarming rates.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the lawsuit filed against EPA by beekeepers and food and environmental groups over the continued allowance of two bee-toxic neonics. It also marks the two-year anniversary of the legal petition filed against the agency on the same issue. To date, the agency has stalled on both fronts.

And despite numerous studies linking neonicotinoids with bee kills, colony collapse, and weakened immune systems, EPA continues to operate under an alarmingly slow registration review process that extends to 2018.

Bees can't wait

Last year, beekeepers reported losing 40-70% of their colonies, and some were forced to close their businesses as a result. Loss data has not yet been released for this year, but the trend will likely hold steady. Since 2006, commercial beekeepers have lost a third or more of their bees each year. Beekeepers, including Jim Doan in New York, are incredibly concerned and calling for real action:

“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.”

Honey bees are responsible for producing one in every three bites of food we eat, and the estimated value of the pollination services they provide for agriculture in the U.S. is $19 billion. Almonds, apples, cherries and many more fruits and vegetables rely on bees for pollination.

A growing body of scientific evidence shows bees are being harmed by widespread use of neonicotinoids, both alone and in combination with other pesticides. It's the job of the EPA to review such pesticides for safety — and take decisive action when they're found to be harmful.

Growing momentum

In the absence of federal action, several states have taken action independently to introduce legislation that would restrict the use of bee-harming pesticides. California, Minnesota and New York are among the states considering action in their state legislatures. And this month, Eugene, Oregon became the first city in the country to restrict the use of neonicotinoids on city property.

Congress is also pushing to curb the use of neonicotinoids through the "Save America’s Pollinators Act" (HR 2692), introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). This bill would mandate EPA to remove neonics from the market until their review is complete.

Keeping the pressure on EPA, a growing coalition collected the messages delivered to the agency today. Participating groups include PAN, Avaaz, Beyond Pesticides, Causes, Center for Food Safety, CREDO, Food Democracy Now!, Friends of the Earth US, Organic Consumers Association, Save Our Environment and SumOfUs. Together, we're pushing EPA on all sides, urging the agency to step up and do the right thing.

Bees need help, and they need it fast.

Take action» Help keep this important issue front and center! Create a pesticide-free Honey Bee Haven in your yard, invite your friends and neighbors to do the same, and spread the word!


Photo courtesy of the Center for Food Safety.

Less than a week! Tell USDA to say "No" to 2,4-D corn

Pesticide Action Network       3/6/14

Thanks to public pressure, USDA extended the comment period for Dow's controversial new genetically engineered (GE) seeds. But time is running short! We have less than a week to get the message across: allowing 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy seeds on the market — and in the ground — is a very bad idea.

Join farmers, healthcare professionals and concerned communities across the country in urging USDA to say "No!" to these crops.

Speak up!» The widespread use of 2,4-D that will accompany these new GE seeds will threaten the health of rural communities and the livelihood of farmers. And allowing 2,4-D seeds on the market will pave the way for more herbicide-resistant GE crops waiting in the wings. Tell USDA to reject Dow's 2,4-D corn and soy. 

The stakes are staggering. Noted agricultural scientist Charles Benbrook projects that widespread planting of Dow’s 2,4-D corn could trigger a 25-fold increase in the pesticide's use, with projected use in 2019 to be over 100 million pounds.

As with Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready lines, there will be unintended consequences. Only this time, the fallout will be even worse. Here’s why:

  • 2,4-D is a very toxic herbicide. It’s a reproductive toxicant, suspected endocrine disruptor and probable carcinogen. Children are particularly susceptible.
  • 2,4-D will drift off of target crops. Broadleaf plants like tomatoes, grapes, beans, cotton and non-GE soy are particularly at risk. Conventional farmers will lose crops, while organic farmers will lose both crops and certification.
  • 2,4-D-resistant “superweeds” will spread, just as RoundUp-resistant weeds have taken over farms and countryside across the U.S.

Tell USDA to stand with farmers » Farmers and rural communities will bear the burden of the increased 2,4-D use, while Dow will reap the benefit through further dominating the seed market. And 2,4-D is a dangerous, antiquated herbicide that shouldn’t be on the market at all. Approving GE seeds that will dramatically drive up its use just doesn't make sense.

Thank you for speaking up on this important issue!

Sweeping Ban on Pesticide Use in France

Pesticide Action Network   By Medha Chandra   2/20/14

The French parliament passed a new law earlier this month prohibiting the private or public use of pesticides in green areas, forests or public space, and severely restricting the number of pesticides that can be used in homes and gardens. This is huge!

After 2020 it will be illegal in France to use pesticides in parks and other public areas unless there is an emergency situation for controlling the spread of pests. And they appear to be serious about enforcement — anyone found using or in possession of banned pesticides could be imprisoned for up to six months with a fine of 30,000 Euros.

Read more

Bee Love, Coast to Coast

Pesticide Action Network        By Lex Horan    2/19/14

Last Wednesday morning, thirty people braved the cold to swarm a Minneapolis Home Depot, asking the store to “show bees some love” on Valentine’s Day.

Babies in bee suits, beekeepers on bicycles, and a slew of other Minnesotans were eager to urge home garden stores to stop selling bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides — and plants pre-treated with "neonics." Retailers like Home Depot have a unique opportunity to act as industry leaders by taking these products, known to endanger bees, off their shelves.

Since I was visiting our Oakland office last week, I got to join my PAN colleagues and other bee-lovers swarming a Home Depot in the Bay Area. There were similar events in Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Eugene. These coast-to-coast actions mirror bigger national changes, as decisionmakers start to rethink their rubber-stamping of neonicotinoids.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is currently reviewing neonics. After 50,000 bumblebees died in Wilsonville, Oregon last year, a bill to restrict neonics made significant progress through the Oregon legislature. And in Congress, new co-sponsors continue to sign on to the Save America's Pollinator Act.

These are all hopeful indicators of growing momentum — exactly the kind of momentum we need, if we hope to see real action at the federal level to protect bees. But so far, EPA has held out; the agency still doesn't plan to complete its review of neonicotinoids until 2018 or later.

New science, same message

Retailers, regulatory agencies, and state and federal legislatures have been slow to protect bees from pesticides — but it’s certainly not for lack of scientific evidence, which keeps piling up.

A new study released in December found that neonicotinoids are present in significant concentrations in guttation fluid — droplets of "dew" on plants that bees drink. And a few weeks ago,another report found that common crop pesticides kill bee larvae when they make their way into beehives.

As these and other studies emerge, it helps us understand the science behind pesticides and bee declines a little more fully. While habitat loss, pathogens and other factors like nutrition also clearly play a role, the message remains consistent: many pesticides are harming bees. Period.

More "bee washing"

As the body of science linking bee declines and pesticides grows ever stronger, the pesticide industry is hard at work to distract decisionmakers and confuse the public about the causes of bee declines.

While we were busy delivering Valentines messages to Home Depot last week, Bayer — one of the"Big 6" pesticide corporations, and one of the world's main producer of neonicotinoids — was writing a check to bee researchers at the University of California-Davis. Bayer made no secret of its contribution. In fact, the company’s visit to UC Davis was just one stop on the its high-profile “Bee Care Tour.”

As public and regulatory momentum builds to protect bees from harmful pesticides, industry giants like Bayer have upped their efforts to craft a "bee-friendly" image. These “bee washing" antics have multiplied as bee declines become more serious, with corporations positioning themselves as friends of the pollinators.

In the past year, Bayer and Monsanto have organized conferences, built “bee centers,” and announced “bee care tours,” working to hone their credibility as concerned advocates for bee health. Along the way, they've funded research that points to factors besides pesticides as driving causes of pollinator declines. And all the while, they keep selling and marketing neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of pesticides on the planet.

This bee-related PR push is relatively recent, but the dirty tricks of the pesticide industry are nothing new. As an organizer, I believe that the only counterweight to industry’s money and influence is our strength in numbers. When more than half a million bee lovers asked Home Depot and Lowe's to stop selling neonicotinoids last week, it reminded me that our power is growing. It's about time for decisionmakers to start listening.

Photo courtesy of Liz Welch (from Organic Consumers Assn).

Read more 

Bad for Bees, Bad for Kids

Pesticide Action Network   By Paul Towers   1/3/14
Like many, I was lucky enough to spend the holidays surrounded by family and food. So I was especially unnerved by new evidence, released just before the holidays, that bee-harming pesticides have been linked to impaired brain development and function in children.
The science showing that neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) harm bees is clear. New evidence highlighting impacts on children's health is also disturbing, especially as a father. And while other countries are stepping up to protect bees and kids from neonics, policymakers here in the U.S. are still seemingly stuck. My New Year’s resolution: This year we keep high heat on EPA and insist regulators take meaningful action on pesticides that harm bees and kids.

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

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.


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

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

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.

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


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:

And here are some simple steps you can take:

(1) Visit 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 Let's grow an even bigger and broader coalition of folks demanding action from EPA.
                                                                                             Thanks for your support!


Will California Save the Bees?

Pesticide Action Network By Paul Towers, Media and Organizing Director   10/28/13

Last week I sat through a long hearing in the California legislature, all about bee declines. By the end, I was both excited and frustrated. As I noted in my closing comments at the hearing, California can and must take action to address the dramatic declines.

This is an important opportunity for the state to be a driver of good public policy nationally. And addressing the issue here in California will be good for our business — the benefits of bees to our agricultural economy are tremendous. While it was encouraging to see legislators taking the issue up at the hearing, it was frustrating to see the room filled with pesticide corporations and their allies trying to confuse the discussion and delay action.

California is a already a driver of what happens nationally on bees, just from the reality of how beekeeping works. Many beekeepers pollinate almonds in California, then move on to pollinate other crops — from apples to pumpkins and blueberries — across the country.

So fewer bees in California means fewer bees for the entire food and farming system.

Beekeepers call for action

Bret Adee, a commercial beekeeper who has been pollinating California almonds for over 23 years explained this to legislators last Wednesday:

There’s a great nervousness in the whole industry … The way to have bees for California is that they have to leave California healthier than they came in. Nationwide, we are at the edge of not being able to restock our bees. Beekeeper after beekeeper I’ve talked to this year has less bees than last year, no matter all his efforts to restock.

Legislators didn't seem to be getting the message, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. As Assemblymembers Susan Eggman, Luis Alejo and Mariko Yamada probed, the state officials at the hearing failed to share meaningful information.

There isn’t a safe place for bees to be in California without exposure to pesticides

“There isn’t a safe place for bees to be in California without exposure to pesticides,” Susan Kegley, PhD, CEO of Pesticide Research Institute and a consulting scientist for PAN told the legislators.

What seemed remarkable to me from state officials who testified was the lack of urgency and any clear plan of action on pesticides, especially given the scientific evidence on neonicotinoids. Just as Europe has done, California has an opportunity to immediately take steps to protect bees. Yet officials seem to be skirting the issue, passing the buck to an intransigent EPA.

Confusing the issue

Pesticide industry lobbyists and allies tried to divert attention to issues like the pesky Varroa mite and the lack of food or forage for bees. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a common industry tactic to redirect attention away from pesticides to issues that face less opposition. In doing so, they further confuse the problem and limit opportunities for action.

The confusion is largely driven by industrial agriculture lobbyists like Kahn, Soares and Conway (you might remember them from methyl iodide) and AMVAC, a pesticide company known for buying patents for some of the most hazardous pesticides.

Mites and large monocultures — lacking food — have indeed created stress on bees. “We had mites in the country for over 15 years, maybe 16 or 17 years, before we had abnormal failures in the winter time,” Adee explained to legislators at the hearing.

No doubt we can and should find all manner of ways to strengthen the resilience of bees, and we can’t ignore some of the most clear and effective ways to do that. And controls on bee-harming pesticides is the place to start.

What California can do

California has a long tradition of driving pesticide policy reforms — and the need and the opportunity are clear. 

In a letter penned by PAN, beekeepers from Santa Barbara and San Diego, as well partner groups like Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety, we urged state officials to take three steps:

•   Accelerate the timeline for review of neonicotinoids, rather than wait several years for review.

•   Place a moratorium and restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid products until a thorough state review is completed.

•   Comprehensively track all use of bee-harming pesticides, including in homes and gardens and seed treatments used on agricultural crops.

Take action» Send a message to California leaders that they should step up to protect bees, for beekeepers, our food system and the state’s economy.

We Rely on Bees, and They're Relying on Us

Pesticide Action Network   6/17/13

It's pollinator week and bees need your help! They're continuing to die off in droves, facing habitat loss, pathogens — and widespread exposure to pesticides that impair their brain function or severely weaken their immune systems.

Yet policymakers still aren't acting quickly to protect them.

But home gardeners and backyard beekeepers all over the country are stepping up to create pesticide-free spaces for bees. If you haven't already, will you join them?

Bees need safe havens» Take the pledge to protect bees in your backyard, and put your bee haven on the map! It’s easy to do, and will demonstrate the groundswell of citizen support to protect pollinators from pesticides. You'll also find other ways you can help — from pressuring policymakers to organizing in your community — featured on our Honey Bee Haven website.

You don’t need to be a beekeeper or avid gardener to create a safe haven — tucking a few containers of bee-friendly plants on a balcony or front stoop will get you started. And if you already have a bee haven, put it on the map!

Bees need access to pesticide-free food, water and shelter — and every bit of habitat makes a difference.

Protect honey bees» We can thank bees for one in three bites of food we eat, including many of our favorites like almonds, apples and raspberries. And their pollination services contribute $19 billion to our agricultural economy. We rely on bees everyday — and they're relying on us. Create a safe, pesticide-free haven and put it on the map! 

With thanks for all you do on behalf of these vital pollinators.