June 23, 2014
White House Establishes Task Force To Deal With Declining Honey Bee Populations
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
In an attempt to deal with diminishing honey bee populations, US President Barack Obama has announced the formation of a new task force designed to promote the health of the insects and other pollinators.“Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States,” the President explained in a memorandum Friday.
“Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment,” he added. “The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.”
According to BBC News, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be in charge of the new initiative, which includes an $8 million program to establish new honey bee habitats. The White House’s announcement comes following a winter which saw a 23 percent decline in bee populations last year – a phenomenon attributed in part to the loss of genetic diversity and exposure to specific harmful pesticides, the British news agency noted.
Pollinators are responsible for contributing more than $24 billion to the US economy each year, and more than half of that comes from the essential role that honey bees play in pollinating fruits, nuts and vegetables, said CNN.com’s Faith Karimi. In addition to the new task force, the President’s 2015 budget includes approximately $50 million in research funding for multiple agencies.
“Under the presidential order, the task force will have 180 days to formulate a federal strategy to protect the bees and prevent further population loss,” added Sara Gates of The Huffington Post. “As part of the plan, regulators will assess the effects of pesticides on pollinators – something that is believed to be a factor in many of the deaths. One class of chemicals in particular, neonicotinoid pesticides, has been shown to be harmful to honeybees and other pollinators.”
Last month, researchers affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health published research which found that two types of neonicotinoids (imidacloprid and clothianidin) could cause significant harm to honey bee colonies during the winter. Those results were preceded by a 2012 study which found a link between low doses of imidacloprid and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon that causes bees to abandon their hives in cold weather and die out.
“Scientists believe that bee losses are likely caused by a combination of stressors, including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity, and exposure to pesticides,” President Obama wrote in his memorandum. “Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand Federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels. These steps should include the development of new public-private partnerships and increased citizen engagement.”