The White House is promoting efforts to discover the link between pesticides and the dramatic rise in honeybee deaths.
In a report published Tuesday, a White House task force announced it wanted to cut by 15 percent the number of honeybee deaths during the cold winter months a period when bees are particularly vulnerable. The task force proposed a strategy to research the issue and to expand and improve honeybee habitats.
Winter loss rates are well over the task force’s goal, reaching almost 23% in the most recent winter. The annual loss ratio, on the other hand, reached more than 42% for the 12-month-period which ended in April, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported earlier this month.
Among the many causes researchers are trying to discover what is the role played by pesticides, and especially a class known as neonicotinoids, which are applied often to crops.
Pesticides are taken in by plant tissues and then moved to pollen and nectar. Bees, who are used to pollinate a large variety of crops in the U.S., are showing a wide range of vulnerabilities to the neonicotinoids, the report explained.
The task force said the Environmental Protection Agency will conduct the efforts in coming years to find out the potential safety risks that are posed by pesticides and to cut their impact on bees. In April, the EPA mentioned it would seize to approve new outdoor uses for that types of pesticides until more research on bee health are carried out.
“Mitigating the effects of pesticides on bees is a priority for the federal government,” the task force announced Tuesday.
The federal government is not accounting the number of beekeepers, while the American Beekeeping Federation has explained its membership ranks have thinned by at least half in the last two decades. A small supply of beekeepers would pose a serious problem to the agriculture industry, which is heavily relying on bees to pollinate more than $15 billion of crops every year.
Environmental groups have been calling on the EPA to impose a ban all neonicotinoid pesticides. The groups also criticized the task force.
“Failure to address this growing crisis with a unified and meaningful federal plan will put these essential pollinators and our food supply in jeopardy,” warned Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
CropLife America, which is the representative of the pesticide companies, mentioned that bee colonies are not harmed when pesticides are used adequately.
“We will continue to work with growers, beekeepers, regulators and other stakeholders to promote responsible pesticide use,” CropLife America President Jay Vroom said.
Image Source: Salon