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Posted on February 19, 2014 | 9:11 a.m.

Williams Introduces Assembly Bill Designed to Protect Declining Bee Populations

Source: Josh Molina for Assemblyman Das Williams

Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced a bill designed to protect bees and support the state’s food system.

One in three bites of food Americans eat rely on bees, and scientists worry that bees are declining at an unprecedented rate, which poses a threat to backyard gardeners and agricultural operations alike. AB 1789 would set a timeline for the Department of Pesticide Regulation to determine whether the pesticide neonicotinoids are driving bee die-offs across the country.

The Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association is sponsoring the bill.

“These chemicals have been banned in the European Union, and it is only appropriate that their use be conditional on good scientific evidence,” said Todd Bebb of the Beekeepers Association.

The Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of beekeeping through best management practices, the education and mentoring of people about honey bees and beekeeping, and increasing public awareness of environmental concerns affecting honey bees.

Colony losses are a very serious problem for beekeepers. Annual losses from the winter of 2006-11 averaged about 33 percent each year, more than double what is considered sustainable, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Honey bees are the most economically valuable pollinator worldwide, pollinating key agricultural crops in California, as well as backyard vegetables and flowers. In California, the almond industry wholly relies on bees for pollination and is currently valued at over $3 billion. Without the yield increases made possible by pollination services, food prices would rise, the farm sector would rapidly become less competitive globally, and the security and variety of our food supply would diminish, according to the Pesticide Action Network North America.

“Scientific evidence increasingly points to pesticides as a key catalyst driving bee die-offs, in combination with other factors like disease and poor nutrition,” said Emily Marquez, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network. "California officials have failed to complete their evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides in a timely manner, risking continued harm to bees and the livelihood of beekeepers. The proposed legislation creates a reasonable timetable for the State to finish its review of these pesticides and to adopt new protections for bees."

“I hope this bill will help address the problem of bee declines and return good health to our honeybees and our agriculture system,” Williams said.

— Josh Molina represents Assemblyman Das Williams.

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