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White House Launches Task Force to Help Pollinators Recover

The Obama administration released a presidential memorandum last week establishing a federal strategy for reversing the declining populations of pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Over the past decade, populations of bees and other pollinators have drastically fallen, threatening the stability of a large proportion of crops worldwide which rely on such insects to pollinate them.

In 2006, the term “colony collapse disorder” was coined to describe the particular situation with honeybees, as their numbers have significantly declined. Experts believe the crisis is the result of some combination of stressors, including insecticides, pathogens and parasites.

The presidential memorandum calls for the creation of a special task force to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy to better understand and develop methods to help recover losses to pollinator populations. That task force will be co-chaired Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

In part, the task force will develop plans for enhancing pollinator habitat, along with creating education plans for individuals and businesses.

The White House budget for fiscal year 2015 sets aside $50 million for research and efforts to improve pollinator conservation efforts and public education.

The value of honeybee pollination to the U.S. agriculture industry is estimated at $15 billion per year, and other pollinators together account for another $9 billion. Honeybees, birds, bats and other pollinators play a key role in the production of roughly 35 percent of the crops grown in the U.S.

Responding to the memorandum, the consumer organization Center for Food Safety said the task force is a step in the right direction, but more action is needed to address the problem of colony collapse disorder.

“We need to delve deep into the problem and root out key culprits, starting with pesticides,” said Larissa Walker, who leads the organization’s pollinator campaign. “We look to the Obama administration for leadership that will have the lasting impact we need to keep our pollinator populations sustainable and healthy.”

© Food Safety News
  • Kathymm


    USDA chief Vilsack greenlights Monsanto’s alfalfa….

    .supports genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn

    his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.

    Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto.

    Mad Angel on FB

  • susanrudnicki

    Leaving out mentioning the heavily-lab-selected genetics used in the commercial honeybee strains is leaving out a major part of the story here. European Honeybees have almost NO resistance to varroa mite and its vectored diseases. Africanized strains DO have this resistance. From a letter to Melody Myer’s “Organic Matters” blog—

    As a backyard beekeeper,
    rescuer/re-homer of feral bees found in conflict with humans in the
    urban environment, and a mentor to new beeks for using ONLY feral,
    genetically diverse bees, I can tell you the media is doing a mostly
    terrible job of reporting on CCD and pollinators in general.

    First, many of the beekeepers of migratory operations (the ones
    trucking bees hundreds of miles from state to state) are at fault for
    the poor vigor of the bees they keep. What is not being explained to
    the public is the bees these operators are using are subject to
    antibiotics, acaricides, HFCS feeding regimens (which disrupt the gut
    microbes of the bees, compromising immune response) and intense genetic
    selection for larger, more docile and more genetically uniform
    honeybees. The bees suffer great immune stress in being hauled by
    semi-truck with no food or water and constant hive jostling.

    Second, American Ag schools are complicit in pushing this poorly
    bred model of shallow genetics, larger bees —after all, ‘bigger is
    better’ , eh?—and ignoring immune system vigor/gut microbe balance and
    the in-hive chemical treatments that are driving down resistance to the
    imported plethora of Asian diseases and pests. Artificial insemination
    of Queens, yearly replacement of Queens, drone semen selection, is all
    part of a human-centric posture of control that is actually an illusion.
    Bee breeding is a big business, just like a lot of industrial

    Third, farmers have become so dependent on the migratory honeybee
    that much of the native pollinators, who can actually be MORE efficient
    and effective, have been driven to extinction—or at least driven from
    most of the Central Valley, where all those almonds are grown. There
    is NO FORAGE for any pollinator after the almond bloom is over, because
    the thousands of acres of mono-crop almonds is scraped clean of any
    weeds beneath it, and all verge areas are also devoid of natural growth.
    It is a food desert for pollinators. For a clear view of this
    egregious situation, as well as on-site fungicide orchard spraying going
    on while bees are foraging—killing them—see the new doc film “More
    Than Honey”. It’s horrific how blase’ our attitudes. At some point,
    my feeling is, the price paid for migratory pollination will become so
    untenable, that farmers will re-evaluate the wisdom of sterile thousands
    of acres, and start removing every fifth row to plant as permanent
    forage for on-site pollinator support and viability. The Xerces
    Society for Invertebrate Conservation has articles on this change that
    is desperately needed to diversify pollinator services and create truly
    sustainable agriculture models.

    Fourth, the genetic weaknesses I mentioned ARE known to be
    factors in the rise of CCD, and the government DOES know the many
    insults occurring to the immune systems of bees (and all pollinators)
    but the strength and power of Big Ag and Big Pharma/Chem is such that
    the exclusive investigative research into “what’s causing CCD” was
    awarded to the very company making tons of the implicated chemical
    class, neonicotinoids—Bayer Crop Science. Our EPA is at the root of
    this assignment, which so clearly shows the collusion and corruption of
    public policy and investigation. Neonicotinoids are now one of the
    most widely used class of systemic pesticides—systemic meaning every
    part of the plant is contaminated, which for bees is the pollen, nectar,
    or night-dew water droplets foraged and brought back to the hive.
    Bioaccumulation of these toxics and synergenistic effects with other
    chemicals are how bees encounter these chemical residues in Nature, but
    the chemical companies are not bound to test their products in this
    “real world” scenario. They test their chemicals in careful isolation
    in the lab and then gain permission to dump these poisons on the
    market, with the caveat that “the label instructions are sufficient to
    prevent incorrect applications”—what a farce.

    Fifth, even those in organic honey production have now been granted
    usage of formic acid for their product, under pressure from the
    chemical believers on the NOSB. This chemical is used for treatment of
    varroa mite, but is a serious erosion of the organic brand which would
    normally dis-allow chemicals in the production of organic honey.
    Formic acid is very toxic and must be applied with great care by
    operators to avoid human health effects.

    So, the reasons for honeybee decline are multipronged, most of the
    reasons lie right at the foot of the human managers of bees and the
    growers of crops, and the larger picture is we must be more careful to
    mimic natural systems instead of constantly applying human devised
    “fix-its” which we do not investigate for the many potentially harmful
    unintended consequences. The great diversity of the genetics
    carried by the feral bee populations, bees capriciously exterminated in
    many cases, represent a reservoir of vigor and persistence that most
    folks in the “conventional” bee world are very dismissive of.

    • foodlawlady

      Wow this was so informative! Do you have a twitter account? I would like to follow you if you do! Thanks for the all the good information.

  • It might help if the landscapers in Oregon wouldn’t stop killing bees.


  • Linda Adsit

    Susan, that was a very thorough treatment of the subject. You’re so knowlegeable, and a good writer, too. I think you covered everything. You surprised me with a few things I didn’t know, like GMO bees. Who knew? You have your finger firmly on the pulse of the pollinator emergency. I copied your post and will be sharing it with honey people I know, consumers and casual Beeks.

    If only we could believe the so-called task force was as well versed. I don’t believe they are, for a variety of reasons, including lobbying downdraft. Their fix-its, as you called them, are silly and only allow the problem to burgeon completely out of control, one committee report at a time. While Nero fiddled, Rome burned. Rome = Obama Admin.

    It’s up to us. Activists and Small Beeks.