But while bees aren’t harmed by these popular pesticides, farmers — and consumers — would be if they were banned. Neonics are all that is saving the U.S. citrus industry from destruction by “citrus greening” disease. Without them, rice and cotton farming would become economically unviable throughout much of the U.S. Leafhoppers would devastate vineyards in California and the Pacific Northwest. Neonics are one of the most critical pesticides used in modern agriculture and safely utilized in the production of numerous crops, from corn and soy to vegetables of all kinds.
We must understand why activist organizations have decided to target neonics for elimination. They won the day in Europe, where the EU overrode the doubts of its own scientists and pushed through a political ban. As a matter of fact, the EU just conducted a survey to find out how bad the losses really are and were clearly taken aback by the findings. Seventy-five percent of the bee population experienced overwinter losses of 15 percent or less — a rate considered completely normal in the United States. High overwinter losses occurred among 5 percent of the bee population in the very cold north. Summertime losses were insignificant. The biggest danger to bees in the EU are the older classes of pesticides, especially the pyrethroids now used as a result of the neonic ban.
The activists want us to ban first and ask questions later. We should not legislate based on sensationalist and fallacious press accounts. The facts clearly don’t support the calls for a ban.
Reps. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., and David Valadao, R-Calif., are members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.