Buying Bee Friendly: What It Should Mean

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We know that you care about pollinators and their well-being. People are eager to know that the food they eat and the plants they buy are safe for bees.

Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is initiating a farm certification program to recognize “bee-friendly” farming practices. A certification program would offer producers an opportunity to realize a premium price for conducting farming practices in such a way that pollinators are helped, and not harmed. Certification guidelines are under discussion. More information can be found here.

NCAP was involved in ODA’s first stakeholder meeting for this project in March. Stakeholders told ODA that the big question for this program is... you guessed it, pesticides. 

Our view:

Since this will be a voluntary certification program, NCAP believes that the bar should be set high rather than low. We know that the pesticides risky to bees include many insecticides, not just neonics. Fungicides and even several pesticides allowed in organic production can be risky. 

We recommend ODA’s certification guidelines should include:

  • a prohibition on pesticides with moderate or high potential for acute effects, during and immediately prior to the bloom period;
  • a prohibition on pesticides with documented neurological, reproductive, or behavioral sublethal effects at environmentally relevant concentrations; 
  • and a prohibition on pesticides with documented evidence that such exposure increases the incidence of disease.
  • Synergistic impacts between pesticides have been documented in the literature, and must be taken into account when determining concentrations of concern.

In addition, we recommend that:

  • Pesticide evaluation should be compiled from a review of the scientific literature as well as registrant-reported data to the EPA.
  • Since native bees are so important in Oregon, deference should be given to exposure routes and concentrations with potential to impact native bees.
  • For field studies, if data is lacking on residues or specific crops, the precautionary principle should be adopted (restricting pesticides or combinations that may show harm).
  • Certified farms should submit records pertaining to pest management practices to third party certifiers and the State.
  • Certifying criteria should consider potential for exposure from non-crop blooms on the farm.
  • Certified farms should have random testing of residues in nectar, pollen residues, and soil.
  • Attention should be paid to formulations and the presence of inert ingredients; some inert ingredients have been reported to pose harm.

Contact oregonbeeproject@oda.state.or.us to let them know your thoughts.

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