Is the EPA doing enough to protect bees?

Bumblebee love!
Bees are dying in huge numbers, and conservation groups are concerned the EPA is not doing enough to protect them. @bberwyn photo.

Beekeepers accuse pesticide industry of trying to ‘hijack’ public policy

FRISCO — The public comment period for proposed EPA rules on bee-killing pesticides may be over, but the battle over pesticide policies will continue, as conservation groups suspect that the pesticide industry may have exerted undue influence over the rule-making process.

Those concerns are reinforced by some of the country’s beekeepers, who say the proposed rule doesn’t do enough to address federal responsibility to address the impact of pesticides on bee deaths. The Pollinator Stewardship Council recently submitted a letter to the EPA detailing its concerns about the proposed new rule.

Based on those concerns, Friends of the Earth will scour EPA records and letters under a Freedom of Information Act request to try and figure out if giant chemical companies like Bayer, Syrgenta and Monsanto were pressuring the agency during the process.

“States are being tasked with creating Pollinator Protection Plans with little funding support,” said Michele Colopy, program director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council. “At a minimum, states need funding for apiary inspectors and lab testing of hive matrices and honey bees,” Colopy said.

“We’re concerned that the EPA is passing the buck, ignoring clear science linking seed treatments and other uses of systemic pesticides to bee declines and not actively seeking solutions for the beekeepers who are bearing the brunt of agency policies,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

The group wants to make sure that input from beekeepers and independent scientists was equally weighed along with input from the pesticide industry, she said.

“We urge the EPA to develop a strong, unified federal plan to protect pollinators instead of a patchwork of state plans that vary in levels of strength and effectiveness,” said Bonnie Raindrop, with the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association.

Raindrop said beekeepers in Maryland are concerned that a state plan won’t affect the systemic nature of neonicotinoid pesticides, and to quickly move their hives with only 48 hours notice before pesticide applications. That’s not reasonable, especially considering that colony losses in Maryland climbed to 61 percent this year.

“A weak state plan may mean that beekeepers will become an endangered species, along with our pollinators,” Raindrop said.

Massachusetts beekeepers accused the agri-chemical industry of trying to hijack the entire pollinator program in order to protect neonicotinoid pesticides.

“Massachusetts Farm Bureau wrote the plan without the input of county beekeepers and has not addressed any of the issues to protect pollinators,” said beekeeper Lucy Tabit. “They put my name on it, without my knowledge or permission. We still don’t know who’s running this initiative – what we do know is that it’s nit us beekeepers,” Tabit said.

“If my beehives are being killed by agricultural or residential chemical spray, so are the countless other native pollinators and the other wildlife that eat them. Who is accountable?”

The White House established a Pollinator Health Task Force in June 2014 to assess pollinator health and the impacts of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on pollinators. In May, the Task Force released their National Pollinator Health Strategy. This plan did not require any restrictions on the current uses of neonicotinoid pesticides, even though there are is a large and growing body of evidence demonstrating harm from their use.




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