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Pesticides Harm Soil Ecosystems

We know that bee health is dependent on soil health; that’s one of the reasons we are honored to partner with Jonathan Lundgren and the Ecdysis Foundation, on projects like this letter from Dr. Lundgren regarding EPA’s registration of neonicotinoids.

This month, The Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) published a comprehensive review of pesticides impact on soil invertebrates finding harm to beneficial invertebrates in 71% of cases. “It shows that pesticides widely used in agriculture pose a grave threat to organisms that are critical to healthy soil, biodiversity, and soil carbon sequestration.”

Soil health is currently unconsidered in pesticide registrations. Honey bees are the terrestrial arthropod pesticides are tested on. Beekeepers are very familiar with the unprotective nature of these registrations - products like neonics are granted short-term registrations based on acute, short-term test results, leaving out the systematic, delayed acute mode of poisoning that makes up so much of what we’re struggling with in our hives. How can testing that is failing to protect the species tested on be protective of other species with incredibly different biologies? How can we expect this registration system to prevent harm to soil invertebrates when it can’t prevent harm to honey bees?

As former PSC President Bret Adee puts it: "At present, EPA assesses risk to all soil organisms using the European honey bee as a surrogate species. While it is critically important to have adequate acute risk assessment for honey bees, using honey bees as a proxy does not reflect the risk that other soil organisms (micro and invertebrate) are exposed to and does not address chronic effects on honeybees due to loss of soil microbiology. The agency must adopt a more comprehensive risk assessment that adequately values ecological services of all beneficials. A risk assessment based on the current knowledge of life systems must be adopted, protecting the environment and the food supply."

In May, we joined 66 other organizations to sign on to a rulemaking petition to EPA, authored by CBD and FOE, calling for just that. View the letter and petition here.

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