The White House has announced a government initiative to address the rapid decrease of the honeybee population, along with other pollinators, in the United States.
The declining population is a threat to the multibillion crop industry that relies on these pollinators. Honeybee pollination by itself adds over an annual value of $15 billion to agricultural crops in the country. However, the population of bees dropped 23 percent last winter.
"Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honeybees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment," according to the memorandum issued by the White House.
The U.S. government has established the Pollinator Health Task Force to oversee the management and resolution of the issue. The task force will be co-chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Included in the task force are several other departments and agencies.
The task force is assigned to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy within 180 days. The strategy will include a pollinator research action plan, a public education plan, and private-public partnerships to support the strategy.
There have been numerous theories regarding the population decline of pollinators, including the usage of harmful pesticides, propagation of viruses and parasites, rapid habitat loss, and the sudden death of bees known as colony collapse disorder. However, there is little consensus on the exact reason for the phenomenon.
One of the items on the memorandum requires the Environmental Protection Agency to look into neonicotinoids, which is a group of pesticides that is suspected to be a factor in the bee population decline.
Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a Friends of the Earth U.S. food campaigner, thinks that President Barack Obama should place restrictions on neonicotinoids, just as the European Union has already done.
"He could restrict neonicotinoids today as the European Union has done and he should do that if he wants to protect our pollinators, our food systems, and our environment," said Finck-Haynes.
The memorandum also involves the USDA's plan for funding of $8 million for ranchers and farmers among five states that will put up new homes for honeybee communities.
The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign announced June 16 to June 22 as "pollinator week" in the United States.
According to the group, the White House's initiative "is the result of a nearly 20-year campaign to increase awareness and all action for pollinators."