'Protect Our Bees!' Citizens Plea at the White House Garden
This past weekend, the White House hosted the first tour of its garden for 2015, celebrating the arrival of spring with a brilliant display of flowers and cheer. However, those weren't the only things on display. A great number of environmental advocates showed up to urge the First Lady to ensure that not only would the White House garden be free of bee-harming pesticides, but that President Barack Obama stand by his resolution to protect pollinators across the nation.
The advocates who crowded the garden that Saturday were joined by a virtual "swarm" of online supporters, who took to Twitter to urge Michelle Obama to personally take a stand, alongside her husband, against neonicotinoids. (Scroll to read on...)
— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) April 25, 2015
Past studies have named the seed-coating pesticides, commonly known as neonics, as a primary cause behind a recent epidemic of colony collapse disorder (CCD) in honeybees - one that led to a major decline in US pollinator populations, first noticed in 2006. A study published last month even builds upon that revelation, showing that neonics have various adverse effects on wild bee populations as well, impacting bumblebee reproduction in particular. This could explain why nearly one in 10 bee species currently face extinction in Europe, even while US honeybee populations struggle to recover.
"The bees can't wait. The First Lady must stand up for bees and urge meaningful action on bee-toxic pesticides in her backyard and beyond if she wants to ensure healthy and affordable food for America's children and families," Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a food futures campaigner for the advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FoE), said in a recent statement. (Scroll to read on...)
The Saturday plea was closely followed by the presentation of a letter and petition signed by more than 200,000 Americans asking that the White House publically commit to taking meaningful steps to protect pollinators from neonics.
"President Obama must not miss this opportunity to act," added Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. "The science is clear. Neonicotinoids are harmful to pollinators, and without pollinators, the US food supply is at risk. We call on the First Lady today to protect bees in her garden from bee-toxic pesticides and set an example for the nation."
However, it's important to note that US governmental offices and other parties haven't exactly been sitting on their hands. (Scroll to read on...)
Since 2012, groups like FoE were releasing annual reports and launching campaigns to spread the word and get neonics out of our gardens and farms. This actually saw a decent amount of success, with large garden retailers like Lowes Home Improvement and BJ's Wholesale stripping products pre-treated with the pesticides from their shelves.
It also prompted the launch of the Pollinator Health Task Force - a group of experts personally asked by the president to investigate the threats neonics pose to US pollinators.
Similarly, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced back in July that it would be "phasing out" neonics - both immediately ceasing any neonic related work in their wildlife refuges, and removing any plants that were likely to have been pre-treated with the pesticide. This work is expected to be completed by 2016.
The US Environmental Protection Agency even expressed its opinion, in a recent report, that the risks of neonic use heavily outweigh any benefits.
"In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale... farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments," Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, recently announced.
This was closely followed by a recent a moratorium on new or expanded uses of neonics while their adverse effects are investigated by the agency.
The results of these investigations are currently being taken into consideration, and in the near-future the Task Force is expected to announce its final decision on how neonics and other pollinator threats should be handled.
Likewise, a final vote concerning neonic use in the European Union is expected to be decided by this December.
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