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Pollinators and Global Food Security: the Need for Holistic Global Stewardship

Over the past decades, both wild and domesticated insect pollinators are in dramatic decline, which puts at stake the existence of species, ecosystem resilience and global food security. Globally, 87 of major food crops depend on animal pollination. Together these account for 35 % of the world food production volume. Pollinator mediated crops are indispensable for essential micronutrients in the human diet. Many ornamental plants as well as crops for fibre, fodder, biofuels, timber and phytopharmaceuticals also depend on insect pollinators. This article aims to map the current situation of pollinators worldwide, with a focus on the critical role of pollinators in the human food chain and ecosystem sustainability, their intrinsic and extrinsic value, as well as the causes of their declines and the interventions needed to conserve them, in order to develop an argument for the importance of conserving and restoring pollinator populations and diversity. The present pollinator crisis threatens global and local food security, can worsen the problems of hidden hunger, erodes ecosystem resilience, and can destabilise ecosystems that form our life support system. An integrated approach that simultaneously addresses the key drivers is needed. This includes creation and restoration of floral and nesting resources, a global phase out of prophylactic use of neonicotinoids and fipronil, improvement of test protocols in authorisation of agrochemicals, and restoration and maintenance of independence in regulatory science. The authors argue that an international treaty for global pollinator stewardship and pollinator ecosystem restoration should be initiated in order to systemically counteract the current crisis.

EPA Faces New Push To Closely Assess Neonicotinoids' Risks To Wildlife

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) says preliminary results of a study it is conducting show that EPA is underestimating the aquatic toxicity to birds and other wildlife of the controversial neonicotinoid class of insecticides, adding pressure to the agency to more strictly regulate those products amid concerns over their pollinator risks.

"Based on . . . preliminary results, we have reason to believe that EPA has underestimated the aquatic toxicity of the entire class of neonicotinoid insecticides," Cynthia Palmer, pesticide programs manager at ABC, says in Nov. 14 comments to EPA regarding the agency's registration review dockets for two of the neonicotinoids -- acetamiprid and thiacloprid.

UCSF Finds New Bee Viruses, Offers Baseline to Study Colony Collapse

A 10-month study of healthy honey bees by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) scientists has identified four new viruses that infect bees, while revealing that each of the viruses or bacteria previously linked to colony collapse is present in healthy hives as well. calls for ban on bee-killing pesticides - more than 1,000,000 signatures on 20.01.2011

Bees are dying off and our entire food chain is in peril. Scientists blame toxic pesticides, and four European governments have already banned them, but the deadly poison is still for sale in the USA. If we urgently get the government to join the ban we could save bees from extinction. Sign the petition and forward this appeal

Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees

Abstract: Bumble bees (Bombus) are vitally important pollinators of wild plants and agricultural crops worldwide. Fragmentary observations, however, have suggested population declines in several North American species. Despite rising concern over these observations in the United States, highlighted in a recent National Academy of Sciences report, a national assessment of the geographic scope and possible causal factors of bumble bee decline is lacking. Here, we report results of a 3-y interdisciplinary study of changing distributions, population genetic structure, and levels of pathogen infection in bumble bee populations across the United States. We compare current and historical distributions of eight species, compiling a database of >73,000 museum records for comparison with data from intensive nationwide surveys of >16,000 specimens. We show that the relative abundances of four species have declined by up to 96% and that their surveyed geographic ranges have contracted by 23–87%, some within the last 20 y. We also show that declining populations have significantly higher infection levels of the microsporidian pathogen Nosema bombi and lower genetic diversity compared with co-occurring populations of the stable (nondeclining) species. Higher pathogen prevalence and reduced genetic diversity are, thus, realistic predictors of these alarming patterns of decline in North America, although cause and effect remain uncertain.

Wik-Bee Leaks: EPA Document Shows It Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Honey Bees

The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined--electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.

Read full story at:

For beekeeping, growth is inside the city limits

Mike Barrett does not have much of a yard at his two-story row house in Astoria, Queens. But that fact has not kept him from his new hobby of beekeeping -- he put the hive on his roof.
Read full story in Herald Tribune 10 Dec 2010:

Beekeepers Ask EPA to Remove Pesticide Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, Citing Leaked Agency Memo

[NGO Viewpoint / press release]
Pesticide Already Illegal in Germany, Italy & France Based on Scientific Findings

SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Beekeepers and environmentalists today called on EPA to remove a pesticide linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), citing a leaked EPA memo that discloses a critically flawed scientific support study. The November 2nd memo identifies a core study underpinning the registration of the insecticide clothianidin as unsound after EPA quietly re-evaluated the pesticide just as it was getting ready to allow a further expansion of its use. Clothianidin (product name "Poncho") has been widely used as a seed treatment on many of the country's major crops for eight growing seasons under a "conditional registration" granted while EPA waited for Bayer Crop Science, the pesticide's maker, to conduct a field study assessing the insecticide's threat to bee colony health.

USA: National Honey Bee Advisory Board letter to Congress about Nicotine Bees

April 20, 2010

Dear Senator – Congressman,

The enclosed video, Nicotine Bees, vividly describes a very real threat to the pollinators of our country today: systemic pesticides. Many people are unaware of the recent and profound shift in chemical pesticide application occurring in agriculture. Chemical pesticides used to be applied to a crop to control pests. With the recent advent of systemic pesticides and GMO technologies (genetically modified organisms), pests are controlled by putting the chemical control “into the crop plant tissues.”

USA honeybee colony losses 2009/2010 amount to 33.8% according to preliminary AIA report

April 22, 2010

Dennis vanEngelsdorp[1], Jerry Hayes[2], Dewey Caron[3], and Jeff Pettis[4].
This is a preliminary analysis, and a more detailed final report is being prepared for publication at a later date.

The Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and USDA-ARS Beltsville Honey Bee Labconducted a survey to estimate winter colony loses for 2009/2010. Over 22.4% of the country’s estimated 2.46 million colonies were surveyed.A total loss of 33.8% of managed honey bee colonies was recorded. This compares to total losses of 29%, 35.8% and 31.8% recorded respectively in the winters of 2008/2009, 2007/2008 and 2006/2007.

Bee Killer Still at Large; New Evidence Makes Pesticides a Prime Suspect

Scientists found 121 different types of pesticides in bee colonies

This spring, many beekeepers across America opened their hives and found ruin within. At a time when they should have been buzzing with activity, the hives were half-empty, with most adult bees having flown off to die. A new federal survey indicates that 2010 has been the worst year so far for bee deaths. Another study suggests that pesticides might be to blame for the mass wipeout of adult honeybees.

Group files notice to sue EPA over registration of nearly 400 pesticides

By MITCH LIES, Capital Press

A national conservation organization has filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to adequately regulate nearly 400 pesticides for their effect on threatened and endangered species.

Judge Revokes Approval of Pesticide That Could Harm Bees

NEW YORK, New York, January 4, 2010 (ENS) – A pesticide approved just 18 months ago must be taken off the market because it could be toxic to America's honey bees, already in steep decline.

Imidacloprid: What You Must Know Now

Thu, Sep 17, 2009 by Paul Tukey,

Pesticide Implicated in Widespread Bee Deaths

While environmental activists including the SafeLawns Foundation claimed a temporary victory Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the emerging battle concerning the widespread use of imidacloprid in Worcester, Mass., beekeepers and many other observers across North America are deeply concerned about the precedents being set in the rural community.

US Native Bees in Decline Through Pesticide Overuse and Habitat Destruction

When we think about bees, the first thing that springs to mind is usually the honey bee or bumble bee. Yet these two actually represent a small fraction of bees in North America. There are a staggering 4,000 species of native bees, from tiny metallic green sweat bees, short-lived squash bees, amazing clay-sculpting mason bees, leaf-cutting bees with outsize heads and large jaws, to large, blue-black carpenter bees. Now they, too, are showing signs of decline, but the threats facing them are entirely manmade. The overuse of pesticides has had an obvious, detrimental impact, but others are more insidious. Many pollinators are generalists, meaning they can feed from a wide variety of plants. When their habitats are destroyed, for example, to make way for a commercial or housing development, they at least have a chance of finding new foraging in a flower garden. The problem for native bees is that many of them specialize in particular native plants, and once those are eliminated, they starve. Habitat destruction can also mean that nesting sites suddenly become inhospitable.

Scientists Untangle Multiple Causes of Bee Colony Disorder

PULLMAN, Washington, July 29, 2009 (ENS) — A microscopic pathogen and pesticides embedded in old honeycombs are two major contributors to the bee disease known as colony collapse disorder, which has wiped out thousands of beehives throughout the United States and Europe over the past three years, new research at Washington State University has confirmed.

EPA to Review the Bee Killer Imidacloprid

Fri, Jul 17, 2009

Having received more than 12,000 comments from concerned citizens, the Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday it will begin reviewing the pesticide responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder of bees.

As one of the first organizations in the U.S. to begin tracking this story, has long concluded that a synthetic nicotine known as imidacloprid — used to kill grubs on lawns — is responsible for the widespread bee epidemic that has claimed more than a third of the nation’s beehives since 2006. France, Germany, Italy and several other nations have already banned the chemical, often marketed as “Merit,” that has been licensed for use in the U.S. since the 1990s, but came into widespread use in 2005 after the EPA banned diazinon.

Bees face toxic challenge with suspect insecticide

By Thad Box - June 2009 - opinion

It is generally accepted that toxic bank loans caused our financial system to collapse. Now it appears that toxic substances are causing collapse of a whole host of pollinators that keep natural systems functioning efficiently. And the collapses of both the financial and biological systems are part of a larger system failure. Beginning in the 1990s, beekeepers began to suspect the systemic insecticide imidacloprid for death of bees. This is a product that is taken up by plants and becomes systemic, that is it is stored in and moves through the plant system. Once the chemical is in the nectar and pollen of the plant, nothing can protect pollinators who gather the poisoned food.

Pesticide Build-up Could Lead To Poor Honey Bee Health

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2008) — Honey bees industriously bring pollen and nectar to the hive, but along with the bounty comes a wide variety of pesticides, according to Penn State researchers. Add the outside assault to the pesticides already in the waxy structure of the hive, and bee researchers see a problem difficult to evaluate and correct. However, an innovative approach may mitigate at least some beeswax contamination.

Survey finds slower decline of honeybee colonies

The Associated Press, May 19, 2009 Tuesday

The decline of honeybee colonies has slowed slightly since last fall, but a mysterious combination of ailments is still decimating the insect's population, federal researchers say.

U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers found that honeybee colonies declined by 29 percent between September 2008 and early April. That's an improvement over the last two years, when researchers found that 32 percent and 36 percent of all beekeepers surveyed lost hives.

Bijenhouders in de Verenigde Staten vragen aandacht voor problemen met Imidacloprid

Ezine, 26 March 2009

These comments, submitted by the National Honey Bee Advisory Board to EPA concerning the registration of imidacloprid, a systemic pesticide produced by Bayer Chemical Company, have been edited here because of length. But the stories have not been changed or altered. The NHBAB consists of beekeepers from both the AHPA and the ABF, and represents most of the nation’s commercial beekeepers. EPA now must act on these and other comments regarding this compound. At the same time, this group of beekeepers and Bayer are meeting to discuss continued research with this compound. Time will tell if increased regulation, or more precise research improve the situation.

Beekeepers from around the United States, and around the world, have had persistent problems associated with the use of the systemic pesticide imidacloprid. Since the first uses of imidacloprid in France in 1994 on sunflowers beekeepers reported problems. Soon the condition was given a name in France: “mad bee disease.” Problems reported by beekeepers, combined with mounting independent scientific data, caused the French Minister of Agriculture to suspend the use of imidacloprid on sunflowers in January of 1999. In February 2004, France extended the suspension to include uses on corn. At the same time they further broadened the ban on systemic insecticides to include the chemical fipronil.

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