Congress Puts Pressure On Obama Administration To Release Pollinator Protection Plan

The United States congress is pressing the Obama Administration to release a national pollinator health strategy that is five months overdue. Members of the House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee are concerned that the delay stems in part from lack of coordination among federal agencies and disagreement over the benefits of using neonicotinoid pesticides on soybean seeds. Beekeepers in the U.S. lost 42% of their honeybees from April 2014 to April 2015, according to an annual survey funded by USDA and released 13 May, the same day that Congress held a hearing on the topic. The loss is the second highest ever recorded. Although several factors have been implicated in the decline of honeybees and other pollinators, neonicotinoids “seem to be attracting the lion’s share of media and public interest attention,” Rep. Rodney L. Davis (R-Ill.) said at the hearing. A national plan to protect the health of pollinators is needed now to provide clarity to the pesticide market, said Davis, chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture & Research. Davis and other Republicans expressed frustration that large retailers are pulling the controversial pesticides off store shelves in response to consumer fears, which the lawmakers said are not based on science. The Obama Administration will release the national pollinator strategy in the next few weeks, officials from EPA and USDA—the two agencies leading the effort—told lawmakers at the hearing. As part of that strategy, “EPA will soon announce additional initiatives for continuing to improve pollinator health,” said James Jones, EPA assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. The two agencies don’t see eye-to-eye on neonicotinoids. EPA recently determined that treating seeds with neonicotinoids provides little or no benefit to soybean production, a conclusion USDA questions. But at the hearing, officials from both agencies downplayed their disagreements. Jones told lawmakers that EPA and USDA are working closely to ensure the national plan will balance the need to safeguard pollinators from harmful pesticides with the need to protect crops from insect pests.

Chemical & Engineering News, 18 May 2015 ;http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news ;