A proposed federal rule that would create temporary “pesticide-free zones” for bees is creating controversy. The rule, which would apply “when certain plants are in bloom around bees that are trucked from farm to farm by professional beekeepers” is designed to address the precipitous decline in bee populations. The rule would apply to more than 1,000 chemical products, per the EPA. It’s estimated that between 2 and 2.5 million acres of cropland could be affected.
The rule – which will be open to public comment – is part of a national strategy proposed by the Obama administration to try to reverse the declining number of pollinators, which are vital to food production.
The new rule “doesn’t eliminate (pesticide) exposure to honeybees, but it should reduce it,” said University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum. “It may not be ideal, but it’s the best news in about 120 years. In concept, in principle, this is a big policy change.”
The rule is complex, but some explanation was provided:
“The acreage may not be large, but the impact is,” [Jim] Jones [of the EPA] said. “It’s really a function of where the bees are.” So when bees are pollinating almonds in February and March, the temporary bans would be near almond trees. They would apply near apple trees in April and May and melons in late spring, he said.
The rule is focused on the time when scientists can document the highest risk for bees, Jones said.
If approved, the rule would take effect in 2016.