Government Report Slams EPA, USDA for Failing to Protect Bees

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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

Government Report Slams EPA, USDA for Failing to Protect Bees

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Government Accountability Office today released a report sharply criticizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency for failing to adequately address threats to bee populations. The report points to the USDA’s failure to identify threats and implement measures to protect native bees and the EPA’s failure to identify the risks posed to bees by the most common pesticide mixtures. 

Native bee
Photo by Ano Lobb. This photo is available for media use.

“Ultimately this report reiterates what we’ve known for a long time: that the USDA and EPA are failing to do what it takes to protect our rapidly declining bee populations,” said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With 40 percent of the world’s bee and butterfly populations threatened with extinction, it’s crucial that the agencies act swiftly to remedy these deficiencies and save our bees.”

The Department of Agriculture is currently monitoring the health of honeybee colonies, but is ignoring its May 2015 mandate from the White House to also monitor the health of native bee colonies. North America is home to more than 4,000 species of native bees.

“Native bees pollinate about 80 percent of flowering plants around the world, including valuable food crops like blueberries. Despite their importance and evidence of dramatic declines, the USDA has failed to take measures to start protecting them,” said Burd. “This report sends a clear signal that the agency has to buckle down right away and start to do the important work of protecting our native bees.”

Pesticides, especially a potent new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, are one of the primarily drivers of bee declines. The report also criticized the EPA for ignoring the White House’s mandate that it assess the impacts of multiple pesticides on bees. Agricultural fields can be treated with dozens of different pesticides at any given time.

“For far too long, the EPA has turned a blind eye to the impacts of pesticide mixtures,” said Burd. “I hope this report will force the agency to finally take the common-sense measure of studying the effects of pesticides in real-world conditions, where multiple pesticides are present, rather than just in sterile laboratories, where only one pesticide is tested at a time.”

Mixed together pesticides can act synergistically to kill or severely harm bees and other nontarget animals like fish and birds.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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