January 2015
Neonicotinoids and Honeybees By John Keeling, NPC executive vice president and CEO

On November 12, the EPA hosted a White House pollinator health task force (PHTF) listening session on pollinator protection, or honeybee protection, an issue that has received elevated attention in agricultural and environmental circles. Amidst the oftentimes emotional debate, activist groups have targeted a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids as the primary reason for declining bee health.

This theory is contradicted by scientific and government reports, which have identified numerous other potential causes for declining bee health across the country. The PHTF is addressing the health issue of the honeybee based on a wide-ranging list of factors including nutrition, parasites, pathogens, genetics, biology, breeding and pesticides.

Hive management, weather conditions, and loss of habitat are also legitimate factors, according to many experts. The concluding decision of the task force will have lasting effects on growers and it is important that a responsible approach based on science be taken rather than one motivated by speculation and fear.

Integrated pest management (IPM) programs improve the long-term health of bees and other pollinators, and neonicotinoids are a critical part of the effectiveness of this program. Healthy pollinators are beneficial to the environment and their well-being is a priority for potato growers. Pollinators play a significant role in a wide range of U.S. agricultural interests as well as the ecosystem in which each grower carries out their own work.

Growers embrace the latest pest management practices, which minimize the amount of pesticides used in protecting their crops. One critical tool in any grower’s IPM toolbox is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, which have replaced some older chemistries in their pest management arsenal. Some environmental activist groups have decided to point to neonicotinoids as the only culprit in declining pollinator health, despite evidence to the contrary.

The National Potato Council (NPC) recognizes the challenges faced in some areas with declining bee health and is pleased that there has been a significant increase in bee colonies across the globe over the past 50 years. The NPC recognizes the importance of pollinator health to all of agriculture and will continue to work with EPA, registrants and the grower community to further improve the health of bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

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