GAO report wants more action from USDA, EPA on bee health

The Government Accountability Office issued a new study on bees and pollinators and found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency could be doing more to protect them.

The study found that the USDA is limited in its role of protecting bees. Although the USDA has increased its monitoring of honey bee colonies managed by beekeepers, it does not have a mechanism in place to coordinate the monitoring of wild, native bees. USDA officials said they had not coordinated with other agencies to develop a plan for monitoring wild, native bees because it was focused on other priorities.

GAO also found that the EPA has helped protect honey bee populations from pesticides by revising label requirements for certain pesticides, encouraging beekeepers and others to report bee deaths associated with pesticides and urge state governments to voluntarily develop plans to work with farmers and beekeepers to protect bees. One potential problem area is that EPA has not developed tools to assess the risks posed from mixtures of pesticides. EPA does not have data on commonly used mixtures and does not know how it would identify them.

GAO recommends, among other things, that USDA coordinate with other agencies to develop a plan to monitor wild, native bees, and evaluate gaps in staff expertise in conservation practices, and that EPA identify the most common mixtures of pesticides used on crops. USDA and EPA generally agreed with the recommendations.


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