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