(Beyond Pesticides, September 10, 2014) As bee and other pollinator populations continue to decline around the world, with clear evidence pointing to neonicotinoid pesticides as a prime cause, Emory University announced last week that it will be eliminating the use of this controversial class of chemicals from its campus, joining institutions and communities like University of Vermont Law School, Spokane (Washington), Eugene (Oregon), and Shorewood (Minnesota).
Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, affecting the organisms’ ability to function. These systemic pesticides, which move through the plant’s vascular system and express themselves through pollen and nectar, include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A continually growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40 to 90 percent of their bees last winter. The implications of this loss are staggering —one in every three bites of food is reliant on bee pollination, and pollinators make possible $20-30 billion of annual U.S. agricultural production.
Last week, Emory University’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives released a campus pollinator protection commitment based on the philosophy that “protecting pollinators will further Emory’s sustainability vision to help restore the global ecosystem, foster healthy living, and reduce the university’s impact on the local environment,” says Ciannat Howett, director of the school’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives. Ms. Howett also mentioned the critical role that pollinators play in ensuring a secure food supply as a major reason for taking action.
The university is not just banning the use of neonicotinoids on campus. The school also plans to:
- Make sure to purchase plants for campus landscaping that have not been pre-treated with neonicotinoids, to the extent feasible
- Specify in contracts with vendors and in campus construction standards that neonicotinoids or plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids may not be used on Emory’s campus, to the extent feasible
- Ensure any neonicotinoid substitutes used on campus are safer for pollinators.
- Plant and maintain pollinator-friendly habitats on campus
- Conduct campus outreach and education on the importance of pollinators
Earlier this year, Ms. Howett received information from the Atlanta-based Turner Foundation, an organization that aims to protect and restore the natural world, based on a report (released by the Pesticide Research Institute, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, and Friends of the Earth (FOE), a network of grassroots groups, and others), which shows that many nursery plants being sold as “bee-friendly” are actually contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides.
“As this body of science grows, demonstrating a clear connection of ‘neonics’ to either killing bees outright or impairing their ability to do their duties, we’re hearing from more universities saying, ‘How can we help?'” says Tiffany Finck-Haynes, the food futures campaigner for FOE.
Although the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum earlier this summer to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels,” the federal government has yet to take any regulatory action. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators with the adoption of the Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R. 2692, introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The bill is gaining support in the House. The bill will suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of the scientific evidence has been conducted that demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Get your Representative to support this bill!
As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. BEE Protective is a national campaign established by Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety that serves as a national public education effort supporting local action aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. BEE Protective includes a variety of resources to encourage municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect pollinators from bee-toxic pesticides. For more information on how to truly bee protective, join our campaign and take action at www.BeeProtective.org.
Interested in cultivating your own pollinator-friendly space? Check out the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and learn more about organic food and Eating with a Conscience. You can also encourage your own community or campus to be pollinator-friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. Get the Model Community Pollinator Resolution in the hands of local elected officials or school administrators. For help with your campaign, contact Beyond Pesticides.
Source: Emory University
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.