It’s the pinnacle of tax season here in the U.S. this week, and it’s easy to imagine coffee being in high demand at the Internal Revenue Service. So in the midst of their most grueling week of the year**,** a group of businesses and advocates are calling on the IRS to go one day without coffee — one of many crops that relies on pollination — to help drive home the potential implications of a future without pollinators.
The EPA’s April 14 deadline for comment for its risk assessment on the neonicotinoid imidacloprid — a leading driver of bee and pollinator deaths — coincides with the IRS’ busiest tax week of the year. The American Sustainable Business Council, Green America Business Network, coffee companies and Friends of the Earth hope that IRS employees will increase buzz for swift EPA reform on bee-killing pesticides.
Advocates gathered this morning with signs, flyers and impassioned speeches outside of IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C., to remind the agency that it might need to cut back on coffee if we lose our pollinators. They encouraged IRS employees to accept the challenge to tweet, using the #IRSbuzz hashtag.
“While IRS employees look for companies who abuse tax loopholes, the EPA has too many pesticide loopholes and is giving too many breaks to the pesticide industry,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “The EPA must be held accountable to act fast to protect pollinators from pesticides that tax their immune systems. Otherwise essential agencies like the IRS and tax accountants around the country might soon find it very challenging to meet the demands of this busy season.”
“Green business leaders understand the tremendous role bees and other pollinators play in our economic life -- contributing nearly $27 billion to the U.S. economy alone. With populations of pollinators in decline, now more than ever we must BEE-aware of the dangerous consequences of neonicotinoid pesticides,” said Fran Teplitz, Executive Co-director for Business, Investing & Policy at Green America. “Businesses committed to social and environmental responsibility call on the EPA to close the loopholes that allow dangerous chemicals to threaten our food system — including economic drivers like coffee!”
"Business people should not take the environment for granted," said Richard Eidlin, VP of Policy and Campaigns at the ASBC. "When you have your next cup of coffee, imagine how your business would operate without bees to maintain coffee crops. Talk about business disruption and lost productivity!"
“Pollinators are essential to coffee agriculture. Although the coffee tree is self-pollinating, bees provide a healthy dose of cross pollination, strengthening the gene pool, which increases the trees’ resistance to disease, and helps them adapt to changing climate conditions,” said Paul Katzeff, CEO and co-founder of Thanksgiving Coffee Company. “Pollinators also increase the yield per tree. Without pollinators we would lose farms to disease and farmers to lower incomes, making scarcity and price a big issue for consumers, and lower yields an issue for the survival of coffee farms.”
A U.N. sponsored report analyzing nearly 3,000 scientific papers concluded that about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species including bees and butterflies are facing extinction. About three-fourths of the world's food crops depend on pollination by insects and other animals, the report cites. Some of these crops include food items found on tables around the globe – coffee, chocolate, apples, and carrots.
In January, the EPA released its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the pesticide imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide. The risk assessment, conducted with California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, indicates that imidacloprid poses risks to honey bees. EPA’s imidacloprid assessment is the first of four preliminary pollinator risk assessments for the neonicotinoid insecticides to be conducted this year. A preliminary risk assessment of all ecological effects for imidacloprid, including a revised pollinator assessment and impacts on other species will also be released in December 2016. More than 44,887 Friends of the Earth members and 49,888 Friends of the Earth Action members submitted comments to the EPA urging immediate action on imidacloprid.
While the EPA continues to drag its heels on regulations around neonicotinoids, a number of home and garden retailers, including Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale, took it upon themselves to stop carrying products that contain or have been treated with the pesticide in 2014. Following a series of protests later that year, Lowe’s followed suit in 2015.