American Agri-Women president says science should outweigh emotion on pollinator health

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Sue McCrum, president of American Agri-Women, said there is more emotion than science in the realm of pollinator protection.

While McCrum was generally pleased with the recent White House report on pollinator health, she remains concerned about how it will be used going forward, especially in light of recent trends in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports and judgments.

“We ask that the science not be swayed by emotions, especially when it comes to the use of approved pesticides on our farms, including neonicotinoids which have recently come under fire,” said McCrum, who heads the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agri-business women.

The use of neonicotinoids, or neonics, has prompted disagreement between the EPA and the Department of Agriculture as well as bans in Europe and parts of Canada. The EPA also has cracked down on neonic approvals recently.

Last month, the Obama administration released its national strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators, calling for reducing honey bee losses to economically sustainable levels and restoring 7 million acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

The pollinator health report identifies the largest threat to bees not as the use of neonics, but rather the varroa mite. The report suggested finding new and innovative approaches to combat the mite, especially since current practices involve introducing bee-safe pesticides directly into hives to prevent varroa infestations.

“But despite the facts included in the strategy, the movement to restrict neonics seems to be moving forward on its own momentum,” McCrum said.

A major conclusion of the pollinator health report was the need to balance the consequences of pesticides with the need to prevent pest infestations. McCrum worries that the momentum against neonics will prevent such a balance.

Stewardship practices are also a main focal point of the report.

“The report describes stewardship practices that farmers are already implementing,” McCrum said. “State and local stewardship planners still make practical sense in evaluating and prescribing the best management practices for their areas.”

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