One of every three bites of food we eat is from a crop pollinated by honey bees. Yet, over the past decade, we have witnessed an alarming decline in honey bee populations across the world. During this time, there have been dozens of published, peer-reviewed scientific studies linking bee declines to pesticide use – illustrating the overwhelming effects that toxic chemicals are having not just on honey bees, but also on native bees and other critical beneficial insects. Even though the European Union has taken action and implemented a ban on the use of certain pesticides detrimental to pollinator species, our environment and our future food security, the U.S. still allows for their use.
Specifically, the pesticides linked to pollinator declines are a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Unlike traditional pesticides that are typically applied to the surface of plants, neonicotinoids are systemic – meaning they are absorbed and then spread throughout the entire plant. One way honey bees and other pollinators are exposed to these unique insecticides is through pollen and nectar when visiting plants.
Neonicotinoids are also concerning because they persist in the environment and can accumulate quickly. This characteristic has caused contamination of surface water, groundwater and soil, endangering species that inhabit these ecosystems. Harmful effects from this type of contamination have been identified in aquatic invertebrates, and additional concern exists with respect to long-term impacts on waterfowl, rangeland birds and other wild animals.
In March 2013, CFS and a coalition of four beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The coalition, represented by attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), seeks suspension of the neonicotinoids that have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills, and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing decline of bees. The lawsuit was filed exactly one year after Center for Food Safety and a coalition of 25 prominent beekeepers filed an Emergency Petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking for a suspension of the use of certain neonicotinoid pesticides until they are proven safe to pollinators and our environment.
Our Pollinators & Pesticides campaign is a multi-faceted approach utilizing legal, political and grassroots strategies to encourage action from our government, policymakers and citizens to suspend the use of toxic neonicotinoids and protect food security.