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July 29, 2012

Farm Briefs: July 29, 2012

Gillibrand calls for pesticide review for bee health

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With colony collapse disorder decreasing the U.S. bee population by 30 percent since 2006, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has called to expedite the review of pesticides that could be inadvertently decimating honey-bee populations.

Honey bees are vital to the health of agricultural industries in New York, as one in three bites of food is reliant on honey-bee pollination. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not expected to complete their review until 2018. Gillibrand urged a quicker time frame, asking that it be completed by the end of next year.

“Our agriculture industry is vital to the upstate New York economy,” Gillibrand said. “Our farmers need honey bees to pollinate our crops and produce. However, certain pesticides may be unintentionally killing off the honey-bee population. By expediting this review, we can help save our honey-bee population and grow our agricultural economies.”

The EPA is currently reviewing neonicotinoids, a class of pesticide that could be toxic to honey bees and other pollinators in high or chronic doses. Research has shown that neonicotinoids can cause disruptions in mobility, navigation, feeding, foraging, memory, learning and overall hive activity, all functions that are vital to the survival of the honey bee.

This would have the potential to negatively impact almond, blueberry, pumpkin, apple and cherry crops, all crucial to the economy of New York agriculture. New York State has already begun to discontinue use of neonicotinoids. After reviewing the pesticides, the EPA would make any warranted regulatory changes to better protect the nation’s honey bees.

A recent study by Cornell University found that insect pollination results in a value of more than $15 billion annually, Gillibrand said.

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