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

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Paul Towers, (916) 216-1082, ptowers@panna.org

Lori Ann Burd, (971) 717-6405, laburd@biologicaldiversity.org

Larissa Walker, (202) 547-9359, lwalker@centerforfoodsafety.org

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

Letter Comes Ahead of Pending Report From White House Pollinator Task Force

WASHINGTON - 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:

  • expedited review of the registration process for neonicotinoids;
  • strengthening of risk-assessment requirements;
  • closure of loopholes that allow dangerous pesticides to be approved with inadequate review;
  • improvements in the oversight of neonicotinoid use in seed coating;
  • upgrades to EPA’s bee- and bird-killing incident reporting system; and
  • EPA to comply with the Endangered Species Act by ensuring that these toxic pesticides are not killing our nation’s most imperiled species.

Neonicotinoids are widely used in U.S. agriculture and are particularly harmful because they are systemic — they poison entire plants, including the nectar and pollen — and persistent, lasting months or even years in the plant, soil and waterways.

“Bee populations across the country are declining at an alarming rate,” said Mark Emrich, beekeeper and president of the Washington State Beekeepers Association, a signatory to the letter. “Bees and beekeepers can’t be held responsible for the problems with pesticides. We need protections that ensure the continued health of our food system and agricultural economy; it's time for the president and his task force to step up."

Acute exposure to neonicotinoids can cause massive bee die-offs, such as the incident in which 50,000 bumblebees died in an Oregon parking lot in 2013. Even at low exposures, neonicotinoids impair bee health by affecting cognitive functions that make it possible for bees to forage, communicate and find their way back to their hives.

“Humans are called by God in Genesis 2 to care for and keep God's creation. We cannot do that task without the help of bees and other pollinators which help plants reproduce. Many of our churches raise gardens to help feed the poor. Our churches overseas teach farmers sustainable agriculture techniques so they can feed themselves and care for the land. Without bees, neither gardens nor sustainable agriculture are possible,” said Rev. Pat Watkins, executive director of United Methodist Caretakers of God’s Creation.

“We need bold action and we need it now,” said Larissa Walker, Pollinator Campaign director at the Center for Food Safety. “As a co-chair of the White House Pollinator Task Force, it is unacceptable for the EPA to continue dragging its feet on this issue. The agency’s plans to merely update pesticide labels and encourage states to adopt their own pollinator protection plans are not nearly enough.”

“The upcoming actions coming from the White House and our government agencies must be bold and effective — bees and other pollinators have been increasingly exposed to these toxic pesticides for too long already,” said Paul Towers of the Pesticide Action Network North America. “We need action now to stop the harms of bee-killing pesticides.”

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PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five autonomous 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 ensure the transition to a just and viable society.

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