California Forum

Another View: Singling out neonics as honeybee problem is unwise

There is much to applaud in the White House study on honeybees. Joel Nelsen writes that it recognizes that bee health is a complex, multifactorial problem requiring a multipronged response.
There is much to applaud in the White House study on honeybees. Joel Nelsen writes that it recognizes that bee health is a complex, multifactorial problem requiring a multipronged response. Special to The Bee

The American humorist Josh Billings once said, “The trouble with people is not that they don’t know but that they know so much that ain’t so.”

That goes double for many in Washington who think they know about bee health and neonicotinoid insecticides. Neonics, as they are often called, are a critical tool in almost every farming operation in the U.S., from major commodity crops to fruits and vegetables. But the EPA and White House are clearly moving to restrict these essential pesticides.

That’s because so many in our nation’s capital have been listening to activists who warn of the coming “beepocalypse” and say that neonics are to blame. But, as the White House report illustrates, bee populations in the U.S. have been steady since the mid-1990s, about the time when neonics first came on the market.

The problem is, the scare stories being promulgated by the activists just “ain’t so.” Neonics have been banned in Europe for two seasons, yet colony collapse continues. In Australia, there are no restrictions on neonics, but colony collapse does not exist there.

For my own industry, citrus, neonics represent survival, pure and simple.

The citrus industry is facing a real crisis in the form of a deadly citrus plant disease called Huanglongbing, or HLB. It is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive insect that is now endemic in Florida and spreading quickly throughout California, including the Central Valley where 50 percent of the nation’s fresh citrus is produced. There is no cure for the disease, and once a tree becomes infected, it must be destroyed.

Neonics are one of the best tools available to combat the psyllid. Take away neonics, and we can say goodbye to California-grown citrus.

The Sacramento Bee should not make statements based on emotion (“Obama’s bee report is a bit of a buzzkill”; Editorials, May 26). There is much to applaud in the White House document. It recognizes that bee health is a complex, multifactorial problem requiring a multipronged response. It would be unwise for the White House to isolate a single potential stressor.

Commodities such as citrus, which do not require pollination, actually help to enhance bee health by providing forage. It is unacceptable for The Bee to suggest that we “do more.” It is inappropriate for The Bee to suggest forsaking the health of one industry for the supposed betterment of another, when science and data clearly indicate it just “ain’t so.”

Joel Nelsen is the president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual.

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