Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Experts say that in order for bees and pollinators to survive and thrive, President Obama must order an immediate ban on neonicotinoids. (Photo: CrashSunRay2013/cc/flickr)

'The Bees Can't Wait': White House Plan to Save Pollinators Falls Short, Say Experts

Pollinator Health Strategy fails to address pesticides as key driver of bee deaths

Lauren McCauley

Faced with the growing crisis of declining bee populations, the White House on Tuesday released its strategy for improving pollinator health. Almost immediately, experts decried the plan, saying it "misses the mark" by refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming role that pesticides play in driving bee deaths.

Under the strategy (pdf) put forth by the Pollinator Health Task Force, which falls under the leadership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal government aims to:

  • Reduce honey bee colony losses to no more than 15% within 10 years, deemed "economically sustainable levels."
  • Increase the Eastern population of the monarch butterfly to 225 million butterflies and protect its annual North American migration.
  • "Restore or enhance 7 million acres of land" of pollinator habitat over the next 5 years through Federal actions and public-private partnerships.

To achieve these goals, the Task Force developed an action plan, which prioritizes the need to expand research on honeybees, native bees, butterflies and other pollinators, increase habitat acreage, increase outreach with other federal agencies, and expand public-private partnerships.

However, experts note that absent from the plan is any immediate action restricting the use of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, which studies have shown to be one of the leading causes of bee deaths. Nor does the plan outline restrictions for pesticide-coated seeds, which advocates say are "one of the largest uses of bee-harming pesticides."

"The plan focuses heavily on improving pollinator habitat, but is blind to the fact that new habitat will simply become contaminated by insecticides still heavily in use, ultimately harming pollinators," said Larissa Walker, pollinator campaign director at Center for Food Safety. "We can’t just plant more wild flowers near crop land and expect insecticides to stop being a problem."

And Lisa Archer, Food and Technology Program director with Friends of the Earth, said the strategy "misses the mark by not adequately addressing the pesticides as a key driver of unsustainable losses of bees and other pollinators essential to our food system."

"Our bees can’t wait for more reports and evaluations."
—Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity

The report was mandated by a June 2014 presidential memorandum, which established the Task Force, charged the EPA with assessing the threat of certain pesticides, and called on federal agencies to limit their use of such chemicals in their operations. On April 2, the EPA announced it will "likely not be in a position to approve most applications for new uses of [neonicotinoids] until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete."

These actions, environmentalists say, are not enough in the face of rapidly declining population numbers. 

"The actions described in this report aren’t enough to save our pollinators as long as bee-killing neonicotinoids are being used on more than 100 million acres in this country," said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Environmental Health Program at the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Our bees can’t wait for more reports and evaluations," Burd continued. "For bees and pollinators to survive and thrive, President Obama needs to order an immediate ban on neonicotinoids. And the EPA needs to stop dodging its consultation obligations and fully assess the impacts of neonicotinoids under the Endangered Species Act."

Sustainable food and business groups have also voiced opposition to the continued use of these chemicals.

In January, more than 100 businesses including Clif Bar, Nature’s Path, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm urged the Obama administration to immediately suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to "protect the nation’s food supply, environment and economy."

"The Obama administration must listen to the business community and growing body of science by taking immediate action to address the threats pollinators face from pesticides to protect our economy, food system and all of us," Bryan McGannon, deputy director of policy at the American Sustainable Business Council, said in a press statement.

Among the alternative recommendations being put forth, environmental groups are calling for: an immediate ban on all unnecessary uses of "systemic, persistent pesticides, including neonicotinoids;" regulations pertaining to the planting of pesticide-treated seeds; and increased investments in "green, fair, and cutting-edge alternatives pesticides that support a prosperous agricultural system."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Sunrise Movement Targets Kyrsten Sinema for Obstructing Build Back Better Act

"Who do you work for? Do you work for the young, BIPOC, and working people who put their lives on hold to elect you? Or do you work for ExxonMobil and fossil fuel corporations?"

Brett Wilkins ·


UN Chief Tells World Leaders To Their Faces That Vaccine Apartheid Is 'An Obscenity'

Persistent inequality represents "a moral indictment of the state of our world," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Julia Conley ·


Global People's Summit on Food Systems Kicks Off to Challenge 'Corporate Agenda' of UN Meeting

"The people are hungry for real change, and are willing to do whatever it takes to fight for and reclaim their land, their rights, and the future of food systems."

Kenny Stancil ·


Top Ad and PR Firms Exposed for Helping Big Oil Greenwash Their Climate Destruction

"We need creatives and communications experts to bring their full energy towards ending this crisis, not extending it."

Jessica Corbett ·


Biden's Global Climate Finance Pledge Likened to 'Throwing Droplets at a Fire'

"The U.S. is the biggest carbon polluter in history. We must pay our fair share."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo