White House announces strategy to save pollinators like the monarch and the honey bee.

White House Announces Controversial Plan To Save Bees And Other Pollinators, Calls On Citizens To Do Their Part

The White House just released its new plan to save the bees and other pollinators. The officially released strategy to protect our nation’s pollinators comes after President Obama was absolutely swarmed with the demands of around four million activists who called upon the White House to step up and do its part to protect our pollinators. Last summer, President Obama did issue a Presidential Memorandum about pollinator protection, but finally, the strategy has been announced. According to the White House, pollinators make the U.S. billions of dollars, because of the value they add to agricultural crops every year.

Our pollinators are dying, and while the White House places some of the blame on mites and bee diseases, much of the blame probably sits right on our own shoulders. Last year, according to the White House, beekeepers said they lost 40 percent of their honey bee colonies, and in just the last 20 years, monarch butterflies, another major North American pollinator species, declined to only ten percent of their former numbers. Our pollinators are in critical condition.

The White House’s plan of action is three-tiered.

  1. Reduce the loss of honey bee colonies, so that the population reaches sustainable levels. Currently, our honey bee population is not sustainable.
  2. Increase the population of the monarch butterfly.
  3. Restore or enhance pollinators’ habitats through both public and private participation. This will mean protecting millions of acres of U.S. land.

The White House’s task force includes visions of pollinator gardens on properties at Federal buildings and the restoration of millions of acres of Federally managed lands. The White House called for “all hands on deck” to save our nation’s pollinators.

“YOU can share some land with pollinators—bees, butterflies, other insects, birds, bats—by planting a pollinator garden or setting aside some natural habitat. YOU can think carefully before applying any pesticides and always follow the label instructions. YOU can find out more about the pollinator species that live near you.”

Though federal agencies have been resistant about recognizing the probable link between the collapse of the American pollinator population and neonicotinoids, environmentalists say this strong link, recognized elsewhere around the world, simply cannot be discounted or underestimated by the U.S. any longer. Activist group Friends of the Earth explains how neonicotinoid insecticides need to be at the forefront of the movement, if we are going to actually save our pollinators.

“Neonicotinoid insecticides have been responsible for several high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, but a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to impairment in reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications and immune response at doses far below those that cause bee kills. In this study, all of the nursery plant samples where neonics were detected have the potential to harm or even kill bees.”

Americans, believing they are doing their part to provide for the bees, are purchasing flowers that are actually treated with neonics and are reportedly only making a dire situation even worse. Trying to save the bees, they purchase flowers from their local nurseries or stores like Walmart and Home Depot, but since there are no labeling requirements for reselling plants laced with neonics, consumers remain completely in the dark of the fact that they may be killing the pollinators they draw into their yards. In actuality, according to a study entitled “Gardeners Beware 2014,” most garden plants purchased at the continent’s top garden retail stores contain at least one type of neonicotinoid. It’s within the plant and cannot simply be washed off. After a major push from concerned consumers, beekeepers, and sustainable farmers, Lowe’s finally announced that the company would be phasing out neonics from their plants within 48 months.

Most pollinator advocates say a four-year plan is simply not good enough; not when 90 percent of our continent’s monarchs aren’t surviving their migration and honey bee colonies are dying by the thousands. Though according to NBC, some scientists believe that planting pollinator-friendly landscaping along highways and near Federal buildings is a huge step, environmentalists say the Obama administration’s plan to save the pollinators falls critically short of repairing the damage done to their populations. Moreover, while individual citizens can help pollinators, activists say large scale commercial agricultural practices are the biggest threat to pollinators.

“It has few concrete actions aimed at protecting pollinators from the unique risks of systemic, highly persistent insecticides,” the Center for Food Safety’s Andrew Kimbrell said in a statement. Lisa Archer, the director of the Food & Technology program at Friends of the Earth-U.S., agrees that these pesticides have got to be banned immediately.

“Most gardeners have no idea that their gardens may be a source of harm to bees. We’re calling on retailers to get neonicotinoid pesticides out of their plants and off their shelves as soon as possible. Until then, gardeners should buy organic plants to ensure the safety of bees.”

It’s not just organic advocates that say that neonics are wiping out our pollinators. A meta-analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies from the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which is made up of independent scientists worldwide, says that neonics are absolutely a major killer of these crucial players in our nation’s food production. Neonics, according to the analysis, harm pollinators like bees and butterflies and also create havoc among crucial microbes, reptiles, birds, and earthworms. So, while the president’s task force throws some of the blame for our dead pollinators onto natural diseases and mites, in the end, even those problems can probably be linked right back to our own use of pollinator-unfriendly pesticides and agricultural practices.

The White House’s plan also mentioned that scientists would take a more aggressive look at helping pollinators through genetic engineering. Advocates are furious that genetic engineering is even up for discussion. Though GMOs themselves haven’t been proven to cause bee deaths, the pesticides used within and on the GM crops have been called out for their roll in pollinator deaths, according to the USDA.

Called one of the worst offenders against sustainable agricultural practices, seed and chemical giant Monsanto actually acquired the company that has the leading edge on genetic research aimed at making new generations of bees thrive amidst modern agricultural practices. Instead of getting rid of the pesticides that have been found guilty of harming the pollinators, the researchers feel they could introduce special genetic breakthroughs that would make bees resistant to the diseases and problems plaguing these pollinators. For example, one patent held by a company called Beeologics includes a method which reduces “the susceptibility of honeybees to Nosema infection, the method comprising feeding to the honeybee hive an effective amount” of double stranded RNA. Of course, Monsanto announced its acquisition of Beeologics in 2011.

Activists and environmentalists consider Monsanto and its competitors to be the biggest adversaries working against pollinators and feel that allowing the major agricultural and chemical companies to further tamper with bees would only make the nation’s dramatic pollinator demise even worse.

Wednesday, in response to the White House’s announcement, agricultural and chemical giant Bayer issued a statement declaring its support of the U.S. National Pollinator Strategy and referred the public to its “bee care” website, which says the “Western honey bee’s biggest enemy is called Varroa destructor,” much to the dismay of activists fighting for the ban of these pesticides and the reform of these companies’ practices.

Is the new national strategy enough? What you think of the White House’s plan to help restore the pollinator populations in the United States?

[Photo via Pixabay]