Industry Is Taking The Next Steps Toward Improved Pollinator Health, Reardon Says

Karen Reardon, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment
Karen Reardon, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment

Responsible Industry For A Sound Environment (RISE) is a national trade association that represents manufacturers, formulators, distributors and other industry leaders involved with specialty pesticides and fertilizers. RISE has been actively engaged in the pollinator health dialogue since the Colony Collapse Disorder phenomenon began in 2006. It aims to promote the facts about pests and the threats they pose to health and safety.

Greenhouse Grower (GG) caught up with Karen Reardon, RISE vice president of public affairs, to find out how RISE members are working to improve pollinator health, what the industry should expect from government agencies and how growers should join the discussion and play a role in the important work of protecting pollinators and promoting their improved health.
RISE plans to launch its “Bee Responsible” pollinator health awareness campaign this month. Visit DebugTheMyths.com for more information. Go to PestFacts.org to learn more about RISE.

GG: How have RISE members been contributing to the pollinator health issue?

Karen Reardon: There is an enormous amount of work underway within our member companies, as well as in other industries including public utilities and other large land owners.

Our members are investing significantly in research and development to find solutions for parasites such as the Varroa mite and disease pathogens that are harmful to bees, as well as bee health issues including nutrition and habitat.
A Varroa mite on a bee, in relative terms, would be like you or I having a dinner-plate-sized parasite on us, so it is quite significant.

GG: Tell us about the work RISE has been doing with the White House.

Reardon: The White House has an interest in this important topic, and is currently gathering information and engaging in discussions with a range of stakeholders, including our members, about what might be done in a timely way to make a difference for pollinator health.

GG: What kind of efforts can growers expect to see from the USDA on the pollinator health issue?

Reardon: The USDA is convening experts to look at what might be done. We will see more investment going to research to deal with diseases and parasites, the Varroa mite being job one.

We are also going to see more investment, discussion and activity around providing bee habitats and improved nutrition.

GG: What are the most important messages for our industry to communicate to the public about pollinator health?

Reardon: Certainly, everyone has a stake in this — bees are important to our crops and food supply.

Part of this pollinator issue has brought pesticide activism into the grower’s space, that hasn’t really been there before. Growers need to understand their role in all of this, and having a unified message about best management practices and stewardship around the issue is really important.

Associations have a role in communicating information to the public, but really, people want to hear from their peers, their neighbors. People understand and are receptive to information. I urge growers to start or join the conversation in their communities.

GG: How can growers, retailers and consumers promote pollinator health?

Reardon: For growers and retailers, use best management practices when using insecticides, make sure the employees who are handling those materials are trained so they don’t impact pollinators and other off-target organisms.

Encourage consumers to be informed and provide information to them about pollinator-attractive plants. (See Lead The Way: Three Ways To Support Pollinators In Your Community.) Invest in consumer education about pollinator health and provide opportunities to contribute, like creating habitats and nutritional opportunities for bees in the urban and suburban landscape.

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