MU study finds lack of effective policy to protect pollinators

Pollinators are extremely important in food production and there is not adequate regulation or monitoring to ensure their protection.
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MU professor Damon Hall looked at government policies around the country in a recent study addressing the decline in insect pollinators and found that while some states have led the way, not enough is being done to address the issue.

In the U.S., one-third of agricultural products rely on pollinators, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Many of the species involved in pollination are dying out, putting all animals in danger. An Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services study conducted in 2016 found that over 40 percent of the world’s invertebrate pollinator species are at risk of extinction.

Hall hypothesized that a large part of the problem was lack of uniform public policy regarding insect pollinators. In order to test this they had to compile all laws regarding pollinators.

“In the absence of any sweeping international agreements addressing insect pollinator conservation, this project’s goal was to find topics of consensus at the sub-national (U.S. state) levels concerning insect pollinator conservation,” Hall said.

By doing this, Hall was able to paint a better picture of how pollinators are treated in terms of state laws and regulations.

“Every law that passed represents points of consensus around insect-pollinator relevant policy across legislative and executive branches and across the constituencies represented,” Hall said.

What Hall found both surprised and disappointed him.

“Of the policy targets that international experts on insect pollinator ecology and biology say are most critical for developing policy, we found 4 of 10 policy targets completely unaddressed,” Hall said. “If this loss of bees and other insect pollinators is a ‘crisis’ as articulated by popular press, then with a few exceptions, these policies represent nascent and anemic steps for addressing a crisis.”

However, there were some points in which the study showed signs of progress and potential for future change.

“Nevertheless, there are areas of agreement that are worth pursuing for future policy,” Hall said. “Minnesota, Connecticut, California, and Vermont are demonstrating leadership through funding programs and pollinator health task forces to address insect pollinator declines as it looks in their states.”

Another potentially positive sign is that this is an issue that affects all people, and has the potential to gain broad bipartisan support. Hall believes that due to this, there is broad support for policy protecting pollinators.

“It is clear that this issue matters to citizens,” Hall said in an email. “Agreement crosses traditional political divides — everybody eats!”

MU students echo this sentiment. Freshman Rodney Thomas believes that this is a serious issue that affects the entire human race equally.

“Without bees, plants are unable to pollinate at a productive rate and if plants cannot pollinate we either have to figure out a man-made way to pollinate plants or we go extinct from a lack of food,” Thomas said.

The study concluded that not only are policy changes needed, but effective monitoring will be required to study if those policy changes are effective.

“We need to fund and plan for long-term monitoring so we can evidence whether or not our habitat enhancement programs work,” Hall said.

The full study can be found in the Journal of Environmental Science and Policy. Rebecca Steiner of St. Louis University and Lewis and Clark Community College contributed to the study as well.

Edited by Emily Wolf | ewolf@themaneater.com

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