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Hive Owner: MN Bee Protection Plan is Little More than Buzz

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Thursday, January 16, 2014   

BARRETT, Minn. - The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is moving ahead with a review of a class of pesticides that has been linked to the deaths of bees, but some local honey producers want action, not just more studies.

Steve Ellis owns the Old Mill Honey Co., Barrett. He said having more information and research to draw from is always appreciated, but "we've already got 150 scientific papers that implicate the neonicitinoids in the bee decline. I'm not really sure we need more than that. It's time in the United States that we took action, and I would hope that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture would step up to the plate and become proactive."

Neonicitinoids were introduced in the late 1990s and are now used on about three-quarters of all food crops in the U.S. Their use is among several factors that have been linked to bee die-offs and colony collapse disorder.

In the effort to reverse the trend of bee deaths, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also is getting involved. The DNR is developing new guidelines to improve habitat for pollinating insects, but with no requirements or enforcement, Ellis questioned their effectiveness.

"My own personal opinion is that this is window dressing to say that 'flowers are nice,' but it's doing nothing to improve the health of bees that are being poisoned at an unacceptable rate," Ellis said. "Minnesota should recognize this and become a leader, not a follower."

Neonicitinoids are currently banned in the European Union. Canada is now taking action by allowing seed alternatives for farmers. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency is not set to review this pesticide until 2018, but Ellis noted that Minnesota can set stronger state regulations on its own.

Information about the Minnesota bee industry is available http://www.mda.state.mn.us.




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