The decline in honeybee
populations has received increased attention from researchers and regulators.
In 2007, the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council’s
(NRC) “Status of Pollinators
Committee” issued the findings of a two-year study detailing the
serious problems facing the beekeeping industry, which was described as
being in crisis mode. Since then Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other institutions have
started collaborating, but environmentalists and beekeepers don't believe they are doing enough.
In 2011, EPA formed a Pollinator Protection workgroup within its Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC). Beyond Pesticides participates on this stakeholder group that provides input to EPA on pollinator protection related to the following themes: 1) initial science- based risk management approaches, including appropriate label restrictions and training; 2) development of information on state approaches and authorities; 3) transfer of lessons learned by various stakeholders to improve existing management practices; 4) continuing international communication; and, 5) other issues the agency wishes to bring to the work group’s attention.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
The U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) is leading the federal government response to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), particularly through its
CCD Steering Committee which includes participation from government agencie, academia, as well as the EPA. Other activities include workshops and stakeholder meetings. In April 2007, ARS
held a Colony Collapse Disorder Research Workshop that brought major bee
scientists, industry representatives, extension agents, and others to
discuss a research agenda and discern where more information is needed
and the highest-priority needs for additional research projects related
CCD Steering Committee
In 2007 Federal Colony Collapse Disorder Steering Committee was mandated by Congress to investigate the causes of and find solutions to colony collapse disorder (CCD). This committee is led by Agricultural Research
Service and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.
Other members include EPA, APHIS, Natural Resources Conservation Service,
Purdue University, Pennsylvania State University, Department of Defense,
Bee Alert Technology, Inc., Montana as well as Departments of Agriculture
of Florida and Pennsylvania; Universities of Arizona State, North Carolina
State, Illinois, and Montana. The CCD Steering Committee has since developed an action plan
which outlines 1) survey and data collection; 2) analysis of samples;
3) hypothesis-driven research; and, 4) mitigation and preventative action.
National Stakeholders Meeting on Honey Bee Health
The Pennsylvania State University, Center for Pollinator Research, collaborated with the USDA-led CCD Steering Committee to host the National Stakeholders Meeting on Honey Bee Health in October 2012. Stakeholders, research scientists, beekeepers, agrochemical companies, state officials, non-governmental organizations and others including Beyond Pesticides provided comments to the CCD Steering Committee on best management practices and future directions of research aimed at supporting and improving honey bee health.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), created
by Congress through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. NIFA
replaced the former Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension
Service (CSREES), which had been in existence since 1994. NIFA, which
helps fund state and local level research, education, and extension, has
spent an average of $1.7 million per year on honey bee and pollinator
research with one third to one half of this funding spent on research
on honey bee health. NIFA has provided significant intramural and extramural
funding for research that is making use of the honey bee genome, including
an NRI-funded grant that resulted in the creation of a genome-wide map
in late 2006. ARS researchers
are using the microarray to perform studies relevant to bee-associated
microbes that may be causing CCD.
NIFA and ARS also
have facilitated several extension and outreach efforts to inform the
public of CCD research findings and updates. These include the maintenance
of several Web sites, such as the ARS
Web site to answer general questions about CCD, the CCD
Coordinated Agricultural Project Web site outlining the objectives
and aims of the project, and the Honey Bee Health Community of Practice
on eXtension Web site (University of Tennessee).
Office of Pesticide Programs
in the federal response to CCD is to keep abreast of and help advance
research investigating pesticide effects on pollinators. The agency is
also an active participant in the CCD Steering Committee.
EPA Pesticide Data
approach to protecting pollinators when registering a pesticide has been
to require pesticide data such asstudies to determine the toxicity of a compound, using
labeling to require measures to reduce risk. EPA requires toxicity studies
that look at the acute (short-term) effects of a pesticide on individual
bees when they come into contact (dermal) with pesticide residue. The
agency also relies on bee-kill incident reports from government, industry,
and public sectors to help us understand the effects of pesticides on
bees. EPA may also require long-term studies if a pesticide appears to
be very toxic to bees.
However, the agency often allow pesticides to be used in the environment
without data pertinent to the chemical’s effect on these sensitive
species. Even though the agency claims that there is no data demonstrating
that an EPA-registered pesticide has caused CCD, the evidence is mounting
the EPA-registered pesticides play an important role in CCD, especially neonicotinoid
EPA continues relying
on pesticide product labels that the agency believes reduce risk by reducing
potential exposure. The agency states, label’s use directions can
reduce the potential for bee exposures by providing instructions on exactly
how, when, and where the product can be applied. However label instructions
are often vague and unrealistic. Product labels cannot prevent drift,
or reduce residues on pollen, nectar and flowers which expose bees to
the toxic chemicals.
Pollinator Protection Strategic Plan
EPA established a
multidisciplinary team, the Pollinator Protection Team (PPT), which includes
staff from the various scientific and regulatory divisions within EPA’s
Office of Pesticide Programs as well as staff from EPA’s regional
offices and the Office of General Counsel. This multidisciplinary team
is tasked with exploring possible approaches, tools, and resources for
reducing the potential risks of pesticides to pollinators and with developing
the Pollinator Protection Strategic Plan that will guide its future work and direction.
Reporting Bee-Related Incidents
After learning from
beekeepers about pesticide incidents that were never reported to EPA,
the agency worked with the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC),
to develop a new Web-based portal
for beekeepers to report incidents. Information from these reports
helps identify bee kills associated with the use of a specific pesticide
or active ingredient. The reports of pesticide incidents can also help
identify patterns that indicate a potential unreasonable adverse effect
of a pesticide. In addition to reporting incidents through the NPIC portal,
beekeepers now have the option of also reporting
incidents directly to the Office of Pesticide Programs.
Pollinator Protection Campaign
ThIn 2009, EPA hosted the annual NAPPC International Conference. At the
and NAPPC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) that signifies
our cooperative relationship and shared objectives. EPA staff serve on
various NAPPC task forces, including the Pesticide Task Force, which is
on the safe use of pesticides to protect pollinators. EPA will work
with NAPPC and its many other partners to develop materials in support
of continuing education to be used by states in recertifying licensed
Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee
The Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) was established in 1995 and under the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 2009 was renewed for another two years. This Committee provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to provide feedback to the pesticide program on various pesticide regulatory, policy and program implementation issues. Topics of discussion at past meetings have included the following: inerts disclosure, registration review, spray drift, non-animal testing, antimicrobial pesticides, endangered species, reduced risk pesticides, labeling, minor uses, ecological standards, fees for service, experimental use permits, environmental marketing claims, outreach to the public, and several implementation issues emanating from the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. The Committee meets two to three times a year and all meetings are open to the public.
EPA has hosted several and provided presentations at conferences and committee
meetings. Most recently, in May 2010, EPA
and the French Food Safety Agency made a joint presentation (PDF)
to the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Europe (SETAC
Europe) regarding uncertainties in risk assessment for insect pollinators.
In July 2010, at the International
Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy at the Pennsylvania
State University, EPA presented their efforts to protect pollinators.
The agency has also
issued annual grants awarded focused on pollinator work. EPA scientists
are members of the Colony Loss Network,
a global network of scientists, beekeepers, and industry members from
49 countries working to identify the factors causing severe colony losses.
Farm Bill [Section 7204 (h)] authorized funding for research and grants
for pollinator protection, for honey bee and CCD research. It also mandates
the USDA to submit an annual report describing the progress made in investigating
the cause or causes of CCD and finding appropriate strategies to reduce colony loss.
In 2008 a massive bee die-off occurred in Germany which was subsequently
associated with clothianidin. Germany moved to ban clothianidin and other
neonicotinoids pending further investigation. Clothianidin was given conditional
registration in the US in 2003, without sufficient data to support its
registration. Current data gaps include a lack of field tests for honeybees. A
study, submitted in 2007 to EPA in support of this registration criteria, was
recently deemed inadequate.
An internal EPA memo, leaked to the beekeeping community from an undisclosed source at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 2010, shines light on a key deficiency in the agency’s efforts to protect honeybees. The memo indicated that registration of clothianidin was unsound considering the study findings, and EPA was quietly re-evaluating its use, even as they planned future expansion. Beyond Pesticides and Pesticide Action Network North
America (PANNA) wrote a letter to EPA following this leaked
memo urging the agency to remove this pesticide from the market. Read EPA's
official response to our letter, which rejects immediate action on removing
this chemical which is toxic to bees. See also what the agency initially said
to the press, and our chronology of events on clothianidin in response.
In 2013, Beyond Pesticides joined with beekeepers and environmental allies in a
lawsuit challenging EPA's approval clothianidin and another neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam.. For a primer on the pollinator crisis,
see the lawsuit's Press Release.
Also, read the 2013 Lawsuit, Appendix A: Clothianidin, and Appendix B: