U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the agency’s first proclamation recognizing the week of June 22 as National Pollinator Week.
The proclamation recognizes the role pollination plays in the nation’s ecosystems and agriculture and follows proclamations signed by agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue and interior secretary David Bernhardt.
“Pollinators like bees and hummingbirds sustain nearly 80% of the food in our diets,” said Wheeler. “I am proud to join Secretary Perdue, Secretary Bernhardt and our state and local partners in reaffirming our commitment to promoting pollinator health. By doing so, we are protecting human health, the environment and our nation’s food supply.”
Wheeler is the first EPA administrator to sign a pollinator week proclamation, but has also led the effort to allow the sale of pesticides that seriously harm pollinators like honeybees.
In January 2019, the agency issued “emergency” approvals to allow farmers from 27 states to spray sulfoxaflor, an insecticide that the agency found to be “very highly toxic” to bees, onto more than 16 million acres of crops known to attract bees.
The orders also allowed farmers to use other pesticides harmful to bees known as neonicotinoids. The pesticides thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran were sprayed on 387,241 acres of flowering fruit trees that attract bees, like peaches apples and plums.
“The EPA is using this backdoor approval process to ramp up otherwise unlawful use of neonicotinoids and other harmful pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re talking about millions of acres sprayed with poisons that are known to kill pollinators.”
Later that year, the EPA officially expanded the use of sulfoxaflor.
This January the EPA released proposed interim decisions, basically preliminary approvals, for five neonicotinoids, including several used in the emergency approvals.