100+ Businesses Urge Obama Administration to Suspend Bee-Toxic Pesticides

Feb 5 2015

Beyond Pesticides

Source: John Bennett

More than 100 businesses, including Clif Bar, Nature’s Path, Organic Valley and Stonyfield, sent a letter to the White House yesterday urging it to immediately suspend pesticides linked to global bee declines in order to protect the nation’s food supply, environment and economy. The businesses, members of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and Green America’s Green Business Network, voiced concerns about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s delays in restricting neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely-used insecticides.

Many of the 118 businesses that signed the letter sell products with ingredients or inputs that are dependent on pollination from bees and other pollinators, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fiber (such as cotton) and hay (including alfalfa grown to feed livestock). The businesses call on the EPA to immediately suspend the registrations of neonicotinoids for agricultural uses, including seed treatments, as well as cosmetic and other unnecessary uses pending the results of pesticide re-evaluation. They also called for increased investments in green, fair and cutting-edge alternatives to neonicotinoids that support a prosperous and sustainable agricultural system.

“We are very concerned about the continued and unsustainable losses of bees and other essential pollinators and what effects this will have on the bottom-line of our industries and economy,” said David Levine, CEO of  ASBC. “Our business network members urge the Obama administration to take immediate action to address the threats pollinators face from pesticides,” added Fran Teplitz, Interim Executive Director of Green America.

“Declining bee populations threaten the health of farming systems across the country,” said Clif Bar & Company CEO Kevin Cleary, who signed the letter. “As an organic food company, we rely on agriculture for our ingredients, and agriculture depends on pollinators. This is a clear case where the EPA can use its power to protect the environment and support businesses.”

Bees and other pollinators, essential for two-thirds of the food we eat, are in decline in countries around the world. In the past eight years, beekeepers have lost an average of 30 percent of their hives, a level considered economically unsustainable, given that pollination services, provided by bees and other pollinators, are worth billions of dollars to the agricultural economy. Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to the neonicotinoid class of insecticides, including imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxamcurrently applied to fields across the U.S. as seed treatment. These pesticides have been shown to, even at low levels, impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery.

In 2013, the European Union banned several neonicotinoids, and cities and states across the U.S. and Canada including Ontario and Vancouver in Canada; Skagway, AK; Seattle, WA,Thurston County, WA; Spokane, WA; Cannon Beach, OR; and Shorewood, MN have all passed measures to restrict the use of these pesticides and protect bees. More than a dozen nurseries, landscaping companies, retailers, universities and hospital systems – including BJ’s Wholesale Club and Whole Foods – have taken steps to eliminate or restrict bee-harming pesticides.

This letter follows a letter submitted last November to EPA by 100 scientists from diverse disciplines which cites the growing body of scientific evidence that neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides harm bees, and called on EPA and other federal agencies to quickly take action on pesticides to protect and promote healthy populations of bees and other pollinators. In October 2014, the U.S. EPA released an analysis confirming that neonicotinoid seed treatments offer little or no increase in economic benefit to U.S. soybean production. Earlier in June, the “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA),” a meta-analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies released by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – a group of global, independent scientists – confirmed neonicotinoids are a key factor in bee declines and pose greater threat to ecosystems and biodiversity. The scientists also called for immediate regulatory action to restrict neonicotinoids and switch to sustainable methods of food production and pest control.

Last summer, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to create a Pollinator Health Task Force to develop pollinator health solutions. However, a report from this task force has since been delayed. The EPA has indicated the report may not be released until the end of February 2015.  As part of the memorandum, the EPA has indicated it is considering updating pesticide label language and restricting the application of neonicotinoid insecticides during certain times, which many believe do not go far enough to protect pollinators.

Source: American Sustainable Business Council

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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