Pollinating animals and insects are important for seed production in many plants – and vitally important for modern agriculture. In the U.S., approximately 200,000 species of beneficial insects help to create full harvests of crops, from almonds to cucumbers. Pollinator health is an important issue in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., pollination supports almost $20 billion of crop production annually, and between 15% and 30% of food consumed by humans in developed countries requires an animal or insect pollinator. The health of pollinating insects, including honeybees, is an imperative issue for everyone. As such, CropLife America (CLA) and its members are actively involved in efforts to study and improve pollinator health, which benefits farmers, consumers and the environment.
Reports in recent years have shown that pollinators, especially honeybees, are facing new health challenges. By some reports, total honeybee losses reported from managed colonies in the 2010/2011 winter averaged 30%. Although a definitive cause has not yet been determined, experts say it is a combination of factors that threaten bee health including: Varroa mites, disease, cultural practices, and on occasion, the misuse of pesticides.
The crop protection industry is dedicated to helping find the solution to bee decline and is working to ensure farmers are practicing responsible stewardship. To continue bringing the safest and most effective products to market, registrant companies comply with the EPA testing requirements, including laboratory and field tests for new crop protection products to determine any potential impact on pollinators as well as other beneficial insects. These studies help direct the warning statements and instructions that appear on product labels, and ensure that commercial products, when used as directed, will eliminate or minimize any potential adverse impacts on pollinators.
Certain studies have also pointed to some treated seeds as a possible cause of bee decline. Seed treatments represent one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly delivery systems for pesticides; only a small amount of insecticide is applied to the seed before planting, allowing for reduced application of insecticides and a reduction in exposure potential. However, large studies in North America and Europe, and more than two dozen field studies conducted with seed treatments at labeled use, have so far found no evidence linking colony decline to the use of seed treatments.
Our industry supports further testing into pollinator health, both in the laboratory and in the field, and tests should reflect field relevant doses of pesticides and treated seeds in order to test for adverse effects. Our goal is for label language that is practical for growers, protects pollinators, and is enforceable. CLA and its members believe that it is crucial to continue a strong working relationship with the beekeeper, grower and regulatory community to find the best solutions at the local level that work for all parties involved.