Lawmakers take action to stem decline in bees and limit toxic pesticide use

Reports nationwide have consistently documented bee kills between 50 -70 percent just this year, with some beekeepers losing 100 percent of their operations. The issue took on fresh urgency after over 50,000 bumblebees were killed in an Oregon parking lot in June after exposure to neonicotinoids.
 
The lawmakers, with support from Center for Food Safety and a coalition of environmental and conservation groups, introduced legislation, H.R. 2692- Saving America's Pollinators Act of 2013. The law would suspend the use of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides linked to bee deaths as well as compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a full review of the scientific evidence before letting other neonicotinoids on the market. The legislation also calls for our government agencies to regularly monitor the health and population status of native bee populations.
 
Pollinator losses represent a serious threat to agricultural systems and food security. Without bees we would face an immediate food crisis. In North America, honey bees pollinate nearly 95 kinds of fruits such as almonds, avocados, cranberries and apples and their services contribute between $20 billion and $30 billion annually to U.S. agriculture. Pollination services are a vital part of global agricultural production, valued at over $125 billion annually.
 
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It is grossly irresponsible to continue using neonicotinoids as they continue to decimate pollinator populations. Although recently suspended in Europe among growing concerns for adverse impacts to bee populations, neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world. In the face of a growing body of evidence that these chemicals are leading to Colony Collapse Disorder, we must take swift action to protect our food supply.
 
While independent scientists and beekeepers have attributed recent bee population declines to a combination of factors, exposure to neonicotinoids has remained a key culprit, eliciting action around the globe.
 
EPA granted a conditional registration to the neonicotinoid clothianidin in 2003 without the required field study on pollinator impacts. This requirement has never been met, yet clothianidin remains one of the most commonly used insecticides more than decade after EPA found it had insufficient basis for registration requirements.
 
EPA is currently working under a 2018 deadline for reviewing the registration of clothianidin and other neonicotinoids.  Five more years of colony losses at this rate leaves little hope that beekeepers will survive this delayed timeline, seriously jeopardizing our agricultural economy and food supply.

Kucinich is policy director at Center for Food Safety.

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