Friday, June 20, 2014 7:00 pm
WASHINGTON- The White House on Friday ordered environmental regulators to review the effect that pesticides may be having on bees and other pollinators that have suffered significant losses in recent years.
Environmental advocates welcomed the plan but said it did not go far enough, noting that the European Union has already banned three common pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, on the basis that they were making bees sick.
Honey bees contribute $15 billion in value to US crops annually, and have suffered severe losses in recent years due to a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder.
Scientists still do not fully understand why various types of bees and butterflies are dying, but research points to a combination of stresses, including parasites, pathogens and exposure to pesticides widely used in farming.
The government’s new plan calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to “assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate,” within 180 days.
The memo signed by President Barack Obama also called for a sweeping strategy to be produced across government agencies in the next six months that would protect pollinators by improving their habitat.
“Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment,” Obama said.
“The problem is serious and requires immediate attention.”
The European Commission has restricted the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family, known as clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.
However, the EPA website says the United States “is not currently banning or severely restricting the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides.”
Instead, they are “being re-evaluated… to ensure they meet current health and safety standards.”
Larissa Walker, who heads the Center for Food Safety’s pollinator campaign, said the announcement was “on the right track,” but expressed concern.
“Assessment and habitat building alone won’t save our pollinators. We need decisive action on pesticides,” she said.
“We look to the Obama administration for leadership that will have the lasting impact we need to keep our pollinator populations sustainable and healthy.”