US enviro, food groups urge action on pesticides in bee crisis

02 December 2013 22:46  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--A group of 66 environmental, agricultural, foods and wildlife groups on Monday urged US regulators to halt use of pesticides that are suspect in the ongoing epidemic of bee colony collapse disorder (CCD).

With advertisements running in major US newspapers on Monday, the group urged public pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose an immediate moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, said that it would be prudent for the EPA to follow the lead of the European Union (EU), which this week imposed a two-year restriction on the use of some neonicotinoids.

In August this year, the EPA issued new restrictions on the use of pesticides containing the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam on crops that are near foods fields that depend on bee colony pollination for production.

CCD is an epidemic characterised by a sudden disappearance of a colony’s bees with few, if any, dead bees left behind.  For reasons unknown, a colony’s bees will fly off and never return.

Although the disorder may have been building for several years, it first came to crisis-level attention after the 2006-2007 North American winter season, when 32% of the nation’s cultivated bee colonies disappeared.

Since its onset in 2006-2007, colony collapse disorder has been blamed for an annual loss of about 30% of the US bee population.

That rate of year-by-year loss is not sustainable, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and continuing impact of the disorder puts a major part of US food production at risk.

USDA officials say that about one-third of the US diet - including most fruits, vegetables and vine crops - depend on bee pollination. Major staple crops, such as corn, wheat and rice, are wind pollinated and have not been affected by the disorder.

But Feldman argued that while bees do not pollinate staple crops, they forage in those fields and consequently are affected by neonicotinoids used in protecting those crops during seeding and development.

Feldman said that Beyond Pesticides and other members of want the EPA to simply remove registration authorisation for the suspect pesticides until definitive scientific results are available.

He said that the EPA’s decision, announced last year, to wait until 2018 to rule on the issue may prove to be too late.

Feldman and others are pursuing administrative proceedings within the EPA to get the suspect pesticides barred, but he noted that that process and subsequent federal court action, if needed, could take years.

In the meantime, he said, critical damage could be done to bee-pollinated crops in the US.

He said that it is hoped that “the ad campaign will turn voices of concern to focus on the EPA and the political process” to effect action by the agency before judicial proceedings can be brought to fruition.

In May this year, the USDA and EPA released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health, “showing scientific consensus that there are a complex set of stressors associated with honey bee declines, including loss of habitat, parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure”.

Leaders in the US crop protection chemicals industry say that mounting criticism on a variety of insecticides and fungicides is misplaced because there are multiple natural, environmental and stress factors that could be influencing the bee pollinator crisis.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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