Bees in hive (Image: Flickr)

Bees in hive (Image: Flickr)

Representatives from 118 businesses have sent a letter to President Obama urging him to suspend pesticides linked to the decline of domestic honeybee populations.

The businesses include several food companies who fear that neonicotinoid pesticides are negatively impacting bee health and leading to lower food yields and higher prices. Over 30 scientific studies have found links between neonicotnoid use and nerve damage in bees, and two of Ontario’s largest honey producers are currently embroiled in a $400 million class action lawsuit against Bayer Cropscience and Syngenta, two pesticide manufacturers, claiming that their neonic pesticides caused the deaths of their bee colonies.

“Our businesses are deeply concerned about the continued and unsustainable loss of bees and other essential pollinator populations,” the companies write in their letter, “and urge that significant action be taken now to address the threats they face from pesticides and other stressors threatening their survival. Bee losses have a ripple effect across the entire economy, and in many cases, affect our bottom-line.”

The companies assert that, in their role as pollinators, “bees are essential to the production of one out of every three bites of food we eat.” Further, bees and other pollinators “contribute nearly $27 billion to the U.S. economy and honeybees alone contribute nearly $20 billion to the U.S. and $217 billion to the global economy.” Even this is likely an underestimate, the companies write, as it ignores many of the inputs for raw goods and finished products.

Beekeepers are now losing an average of 30 percent of their hives per year, forcing honeybee pollination services up 20 percent and passing higher prices onto consumers. This can already be observed in California, where the state’s extreme drought combined with outbreaks of Colony Collapse Disorder have decreased honey production and increased retail prices for honey by 65 percent.

“We are gravely concerned that it neonicotinoids continue to be allowed into our environment at current rates, this practice will have devastating impacts on our food supply, ecosystems and economic wellbeing,” the businesses conclude.

They ask the President to “immediately suspend the registrations of neonicotinoids for agricultural, including seed treatments, as well as cosmetic and other unnecessary uses pending the results of pesticide re-evaluation.” They also request an increase in “green, fair and cutting-edge alternatives” to neonics “that support a prosperous agricultural system.”

To address its ongoing decline in pollinators, the U.S. government has already taken several direct actions, including banning neonicotinoids and genetically-modified organisms from all federal wildlife refuges; creating a Pollinator Health Task Force; and investing $3 million into a program that pays farmers to make their farms more bee-friendly.

The European Union has banned the use of neonicotinoids since 2013 and both Seattle, Washington and Eugene, Oregon have banned them in the last year.

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