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Obama moves to save the honey bees, targets pesticides

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Barack Obama,Agriculture,EPA,Energy and Environment,Bees,Tom Vilsack

President Obama on Friday announced plans to save endangered honey bees and other pollinators, for the first time ordering a probe into new types of pesticides that some local governments and 15 European Union nations have restricted or banned.

The long-awaited plan creates a “Pollinator Health Task Force” that has 180 days to come up with a plan to save bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The goal is to rid fields of harmful pesticides while planting food for the bugs, even on military bases an along railroad tracks. Virtually every Cabinet department will be included on the task force.

A key victory for the honey bee industry is Obama’s mention of “neonicotinoids,” a new type of pesticide product that many blame for the shocking loss of bees in the epidemic called “colony collapse disorder.”

In the six-page presidential memo, the White House singled out what it wants the Environmental Protection Agency to do:

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators; engage state and tribal environmental, agricultural, and wildlife agencies in the development of state and tribal pollinator protection plans; encourage the incorporation of pollinator protection and habitat planting activities into green infrastructure and Superfund projects; and expedite review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators.”

Some members of the EU voted last year to restrict the use of pesticides that include neuroactive neonicotinoid chemicals. Three are in use: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.

Pollinators, mostly bees, are responsible for much of what grows on farms.

In a related move, the Agriculture Department said it would spend $8 million to establish new habitats for honey bees in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

"American agricultural production relies on having a healthy honey bee population," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "In recent years, factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides or habitat loss have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population. This $8 million is part of the administration's ongoing strategy to reverse these trends and establish more plant habitat on Conservation Reserve Program lands to restore the bee population."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.