The Obama administration announces plans to promote the wellness of honey bees and other natural pollinators. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~**NONE*~ ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The Obama administration on Tuesday (May 19) announced plans to promote the wellness of honey bees and other natural pollinators vital to a healthy environment. Honey bees are needed to pollinate plants that produce a quarter of the food consumed by Americans. Beekeepers travel the country with managed hives to help the process. Over the past few years, bees have been dying at a rate the U.S. government says must be addressed. Honey bees, critical agents in the pollination of key U.S. crops, disappeared at a staggering rate over the last year, according to a new government report that comes as regulators, environmentalists and agribusinesses try to reverse the decline. The honey bee adds more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy alone, through its pollination of fruits, vegetables and other crops, according to a 2014 report from the White House. Worldwide, that number is around $365 billion per year. Losses of managed honey bee colonies hit 42.1 percent from April 2014 through April 2015, up from 34.2 percent for 2013-2014, and the second-highest annual loss to date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a report issued last week The new U.S. government action plan aims to reduce honey bee colony losses during the winter months to no more than 15% within 10 years. Additionally the plan calls for cultivating an increase in the population of monarch butterflies, also important pollinators, by 2020 as well as restoring and enhancing more than seven million acres of lands over the next five years through public and private partnerships. Dr. Stephen Cook, a research entomologist at the U.S. Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland welcomes the Obama administration's action plan and emphasized the importance of bees and other pollinators. "Pollinators are very important, they provide us the food that we eat. Sixty percent of the foods that we eat rely on insect pollination, so without the pollinators, we're either going to see a sharp decrease in the amount of produce that is available or we're going to see some produce not available." Cook told Reuters. He underscored that when we shopping in grocery stores imagine what would be missing from shelves if there was a pollinator shortage. "If people started thinking about it in those terms I think they would be much more cautious in how they possible could be interfering with bee health," Cook added. Beekeepers, environmental groups and some scientists blame a class of insecticide known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, used on crops such as corn as well as on plants used in lawns and gardens. Some lawn and garden retailers have cut the use of neonics. Bayer and Syngenta and others that sell neonic products say mite infestations and other factors are the cause and they have a lot to lose if regulatory bodies end up siding with the environmentalists. More than 90 percent of the corn in the U.S. is treated with neonics, according to this release from Bayer. To put this in perspective, last year the USDA estimated that around 91.6 million acres of corn were planted in the United States. And it's not just traditional farmers who would suffer. The honey bee industry in the U.S. pulls in more than $300 million in revenue a year, according to a December 2014 IbisWorld report. But as the bees die, some fear the industry will go with them. The American Beekeeping Federation told the Wall Street Journal that its membership has been massively depleted over the past 20 years.