by Gay Chanler
One in every three bites of food consumed is the result of pollination by honeybees. But as we learned in an engaging presentation on Sunday afternoon at Slow Food Nations, the problem involves more than honeybees. Around the world, thousands of other pollinators, including bats, moths, butterflies, and birds are endangered, threatening the reproductive capacity of entire ecosystems, food supplies, and ultimately human existence.
Kristen Schafer of Pesticide Action Network (PAN), beekeepers and activists Sue Anderson (People and Pollinators Action Network) and Jennifer Holmes (Hani Honey Company, Chair, Florida State Beekeepers Assoc., Slow Bees) amplified the alarms, describing the crisis with numbers, charts and maps.
They point out that insects make up 70% of all animal species and constitute a structural and functional base of many of the world’s ecosystems. Additionally, the loss of one species affects the balance of the others, setting up an insurgency of species damaging to food production, either by destroying crops or making them harder to grow.
These pollinator activists highlighted the dangerous new changes in government policy around agricultural chemical use, and detailed ways for people to take personal and civic action to head off a looming catastrophe.
The root causes of pollinator decline are multiple: habitat loss, GM treated crop seeds, agricultural chemicals such as neonicotinoids, (Neonics), Round Up, and a new one- sulfoxaflor for which toxicity study information has not been made available. One hundred and twenty four pesticides have been found in pollen samples. Furthermore, what is called the “tank mix” – the combined mix of chemicals to be sprayed on crops in a single application- has not been studied for interactive chemical effects. What are labeled “inert ingredients” can also be harmful, and they are not labeled as such.
As Sue explained, these chemicals are registered and approved by the EPA with data provided by the manufacturers themselves. While the EU, Brazil, China and other countries have taken steps to ban or limit neonics and other bee-harming agricultural chemicals, the Trump administration has recently rolled back regulations intended to control or ban them in the US.
The good news is that a network of non-profit organizations including a new effort by Slow Food, are joining forces to fill the research and informational gaps created by Federal funding and regulatory cuts. These groups are also working across the media to educate the public and take political action.
The presenters encourage the following actions :
- “Save Our Pollinators Act”: HR2854.
- Call your Congressman right away to ensure that they vote in favor of this legislation.
- Change your Backyard Practices:
- Plant flowers, and ask the greenhouse or grower if they have been pre-treated or sprayed. Learn what to plant, when, and what pollinators the plant benefits.
- Replace your lawn, or parts of it with pollinator friendly plants. Allow dandelions and white clover to grow.
- Remove weeds by hand, and use mulch to prevent re-growth
- Add pollinator hotels to provide habitat for broods.
- Get Involved:
- Encourage local city and county administrators to be pollinator friendly in their landscape practices in parks, ball fields and roadside maintenance
- Speak to neighbors about pesticide use. One way to approach this topic is through food and pollination needs– everyone wants peaches and tomatoes!
- Actively resist State preemption laws: these are laws that permit the state government to preempt local ordinances and laws that attempt to regulate pesticide use and other problems like plastic bags
These are just a few examples of what is being done or can be done on a personal and political level to protect pollinators. The cause could not be more urgent, and the time to take action is now.