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White House Pollinator Strategy won’t solve bee crisis

Posted May. 19, 2015 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration released its National Pollinator Health Strategy today, which failed to adequately address the impact of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides -- a leading driver of bee declines -- on bees and other pollinators. This report was required by the June 2014 presidential memorandum, which directed federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, develop a strategy to protect pollinators and charged the EPA with assessing the effects of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bees and other pollinators within 180 days.

The White House announced it will increase pollinator habitat, implement a Pollinator Research Action Plan to further study honeybees, native bees, butterflies and other pollinators, engage in public education and outreach, and expand public-private partnerships.

As part of the plan, the EPA reinforced its April 2 announcement that it is unlikely to approve new uses of neonicotinoids, but did not restrict current uses. The agency may consider restrictions on a broad range of foliar use products, but did not outline restrictions for pesticide coated seeds -- one of the largest uses of bee-harming pesticides. Despite receiving more than one million public comments urging for swift action on neonicotinoid pesticides, the agency outlined it will complete review until as late as 2017. EPA is encouraging states and tribes to develop pollinator protection plans, which beekeepers have publicly opposed.

Friends of the Earth, Green America Business Network and the American Sustainable Business Council issued the following statements in response to the announcement.

Friends of the Earth Food and Technology Program Director Lisa Archer said: “President Obama’s National Pollinator Health 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. Four million Americans have called on the Obama administration to listen to the clear science demanding that immediate action be taken to suspend systemic bee-killing pesticides, including seed treatments. Other countries, along with cities, states and a growing segment of the business community have taken steps to protect bees -- but their actions are not enough. Failure to address this growing crisis with a unified and meaningful federal plan will put these essential pollinators and our food supply in jeopardy.”

Fran Teplitz, Executive Co-Director of Green America and its Green Business Network stated: “From economic, health, and environmental perspectives, businesses across the country recognize the urgent need to protect pollinators from pesticides. Our business network urges the White House to build on its plans with all due speed to ensure that systemic, persistent pesticides linked to the demise of pollinators are not in the marketplace. We also need strong federal action that will spur innovation in green products and technologies that will best serve our long-term economic, agricultural, and health needs.”

Bryan McGannon, Deputy Director of Policy at the American Sustainable Business Council stated: “Our business network members are very concerned with the continued and unsustainable losses of bees and other essential pollinators and their impact on the bottom-line of our industries 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.”

An effective strategy to save pollinators necessitates the following steps:

  • Cancel the registrations of all systemic, persistent pesticides, including neonicotinoids, for all uses that pose a risk to pollinators, beginning with unnecessary uses (such as seed treatments and cosmetic applications) and uses for which alternatives exist.
  • Close the EPA’s “conditional registration” loophole, which allows pesticides, including neonicotinoids to enter the market before adequate toxicity testing is completed.
  • Expedite the development and implementation of valid test guidelines for sublethal effects of pesticides on pollinators and require data from these studies for all currently registered and new pesticides.
  • Ensure that the administration’s assessment and all future EPA assessments fully value the broad array of ecosystem services threatened by systemic insecticides including, but not limited to, economic value, natural pest control, and soil enhancement.
  • Regulate the planting of treated seeds as a pesticide application.
  • Ensure EPA compliance with the Endangered Species Act to prevent killing our nation’s most imperiled species.
  • Require agencies to ensure that all federal lands and any new pollinator habitat is free of systemic insecticides and that all pollinator friendly flowers planted have not been pre-treated with these insecticides.
  • Increase investments in green, fair, and cutting-edge alternatives pesticides that support a prosperous agricultural system.

In January, more than 100 businesses including Clif Bar, Nature’s Path, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm urged the Obama administration to immediately suspend neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect the nation’s food supply, environment and economy. Members of the American Sustainable Business Council and Green America’s Green Business Network voiced deep concern over the Environmental Protection Agency’s continued delays in restricting these pesticides.

In the past year, more than twenty nurseries, landscaping companies and retailers -- including Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW), Home Depot (NYSE: HD), Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFM) and BJ’s Wholesale Club -- have taken steps to eliminate bee-killing pesticides from their stores.


Communication contacts:
Kate Colwell, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0744,
Fran Teplitz, Green America, (202) 872-5326,
Bob Keener, American Sustainable Business Council, (617) 610-6766, 

Expert Contact: Tiffany Finck-Haynes, (202) 222-0715,

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