Washington, DC — Environment America and its state affiliates have launched a multi-million-dollar public education campaign to convince federal officials to ban neonicotinoids, the dangerous class of pesticides linked to the recent dramatic decline in bee colonies.
The summer-long effort includes more than two dozen campaign offices in sixteen states and the District of Columbia, and will educate over 700,000 Americans face-to-face about the importance of protecting the country’s pollinators.
“One of the great things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Margie Alt, Environment America executive director. “So as Americans learn how strawberries, asparagus and other favorite foods could be lost if we don’t save the bees, they have been quick to join our effort.”
Bees pollinate most of the world’s most common crops, including summer staples like peaches and watermelon. But bees are dying by the millions, with over 30 percent of hives perishing each year.
One culprit is the widely-used class of pesticides called neonics. A study published last year in Nature found that seeds treated with neonics had negative impacts on wild bees, and dozens of lab studies have demonstrated that neonics can kill bees directly as well as impede their ability to pollinate.
Last May the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a process to assess four types of neonics—imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran. In January of this year, EPA issued the initial results of its first assessment, acknowledging that imidacloprid could indeed harm bees.
However, preliminary assessments of the other three neonics are not scheduled to be released until the end of this year at the earliest, and the Agency’s entire process is scheduled to conclude as late as 2018.
While EPA has paused approval of new uses of the chemicals and banned their application in limited circumstances, Environment America is urging the agency to expedite its testing and suspend all current uses of neonics, as well.
Major garden retailers Lowes and Home Depot are already phasing out their sale of the pesticides, while Maryland and a few other states have acted to limit their use. Cities in Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Massachusetts and elsewhere also have moved to ban or limit the chemicals.
“Given the facts we have at hand about the links between neonics and bee die offs, EPA should move boldly and swiftly to stop any and all uses of neonics,” said Alt. “We can’t wait to save the bees and our favorite foods.”