Questions About our Production Standards
- Why do you require a Bee Better Certified plan?
- How does Bee Better certification work with other certification programs?
- Why don’t the Production Standards explicitly address honey bees?
Questions About Organic Certification and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
- Why do you work with conventional growers?
- Are Bee Better Certified Products/Ingredients Organic?
- Do the Bee Better Certified Production Standards allow genetically modified (GMO) crops?
Questions About Pesticide Standards
- How do the Bee Better Certified Production Standards respond to the risks pesticides pose to bees and other pollinators?
- How does the Bee Better approach to pesticide risk mitigation help minimize use of pesticides?
- How do Bee Better Certified Production Standards differ from pesticide label requirements?
- Do the Bee Better Certified Production Standards prohibit the use of neonicotinoids?
Supply Chain Questions
About the Production Standards
Why do you require a Bee Better Certified plan?
The Bee Better Certified plan demonstrates compliance with the Bee Better Certified Production Standards. During the site inspection, the certifying body verifies that the plan accurately reflects habitat composition, pesticide management and other requirements for certification.
How does Bee Better certification work with other certification programs?
Bee Better Certified was designed to complement existing certification programs. For example, many organic growers have already eliminated a large portion of the pesticides we restrict. In addition, Bee Better Certified habitat requirements can help organic farmers meet the 2016 National Organic Program biodiversity guidance.
Why don’t the Production Standards explicitly address honey bees?
Bee Better’s habitat and pesticide mitigation practices enhance the agricultural environment for all pollinators, including honey bees2,3. A diverse diet is vital to honey bee health4, however intensively farmed areas often lack high-quality sources of pollen and nectar5,6. Bee Better’s focus on creating flower-rich habitat provides these critical resources that can improve colony health. Honey bees also benefit from an environment where pesticide exposure is reduced 7, 8. Pesticides can cause death, exacerbate pest outbreaks within colonies, and impair navigation and olfactory learning9. By providing pollinator habitat protected from pesticides and altering pesticide application practices within crop fields where honey bees forage, Bee Better Certified promotes honey bee health and well-being.
Organic / GMO Questions
Why do you work with conventional growers?
We developed Bee Better Certified to help all farming operations interested in pollinator protection adopt management strategies that directly benefit pollinators. Our philosophy is that everyone can be better, meaning that all farms have room for improvement. Implementing the Bee Better Production Standards can enhance any operation.
Additionally, research has shown that we need to work to diversify habitat and better manage pesticides in all landscapes1 – including on conventional farms – if we are to reverse the troubling downward trends we are seeing in our pollinator species.
Are Bee Better Certified Products/Ingredients Organic?
While we strongly encourage the use of organic farming principles, the Bee Better Certified Seal is not intended to indicate that a product is certified organic. All certified organic products will include the USDA Organic Seal in addition to the Bee Better Certified Seal.
Do the Bee Better Certified Production Standards allow genetically modified (GMO) crops?
Bee Better prohibits the use of GMO crops that express insecticides or are resistant to herbicides because they have the potential to adversely affect pollinators. For example, while Bt Cry insecticidal proteins have not been shown to directly harm either adult or larval honey bees10, bees were shown to visit GMO canola less frequently than organic or non-GMO conventional canola11. Furthermore, herbicide-resistant crops have helped spur a multifold increase in the application of herbicides in agricultural areas since their introduction and is the leading cause of decline in monarch butterflies12,13. Increased herbicide use reduces populations of non-crop plants, including flowering weeds, that are a food source for pollinators14.
To find products that are completely GMO-free, look for the Organic Seal and/or the Non-GMO Project Seal.
About the Pesticide Standards
How do the Bee Better Certified Production Standards respond to the risks pesticides pose to bees and other pollinators?
The Bee Better Certified Production Standards require growers to incorporate management strategies that prevent pest issues or deal with outbreaks with non-pesticidal, low risk techniques. Specific pesticides such as nitroguanidine neonicotinoids (see FAQ below for more) and certain use practices that are prohibited at all times due to the threats they pose to pollinators (such as the use of fumigants that could harm ground-nesting bees). In addition, Bee Better Certified requires farmers to halt a wide range of pesticide uses during crop bloom. Certification also requires that farmers minimize drift to habitat through various approaches including the creation of buffers.
How does the Bee Better approach to pesticide risk mitigation help minimize use of pesticides?
The holistic approach codified in the Bee Better Production Standards promotes a prevention-first philosophy, eliminates many high-risk pesticides, and mitigates risks associated with remaining pesticide uses. Growers implement tactics that make their crops more resilient to pest pressure and/or actions that catch and remove pest problems early. Growers also actively monitor pest and disease populations. Should pest populations exceed published economic thresholds, then growers can justify applying a pesticide to protect their crops, if the application also meets the other Bee Better Certified Production Standards related to pesticide risk mitigation. By only using pesticides when they can be justified, growers can limit pesticide use to occasions when they will be most effective and valuable while simultaneously avoiding preventative pesticide applications that are typically are used regardless of need.
How do Bee Better Certified Production Standards differ from pesticide label requirements?
When farmers choose to become Bee Better Certified they voluntarily agree to take protective actions for pollinators that go above and beyond current pollinator-related requirements on pesticide labels. The Bee Better Certified Production Standards include these additional protective measures to respond to concerns raised by recent research that identifies risks not addressed through current pesticide label requirements, including specific concerns for wild bees. For example, pesticide labels rarely prohibit mixing pesticides. Yet, research has shown that some pesticide combinations can synergistically increase toxicity to bees15-18. In response to this potential risk, the Bee Better Certified Production Standards prohibit combined use of these chemicals. The Bee Better Certified Production Standards also require that growers avoid use of some fungicides during the crop bloom period. While legally allowed during bloom, these fungicides have been linked with a variety of health issues for bees19-27.
Do the Bee Better Certified Production Standards prohibit the use of neonicotinoids?
The Bee Better Certified Production Standards prohibit the use of all four nitroguanidine neonicotinoids — clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been shown to negatively affect pollinators including honey bees and bumble bees28,29. The risk of these chemicals is due to their high toxicity, persistence, and systemic movement in plants that can lead to their expression in pollen and nectar. The presence of neonicotinoids in pollen and nectar can chronically expose foraging bees to these harmful insecticides. Developing larvae are also exposed because pollen moistened with nectar is their primary food source.
The multiple active ingredients that are in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides all pose different levels of risk. The four nitroguanidine neonicotinoids prohibited by the Bee Better Certified Production Standards are the most toxic and most persistent of the neonicotinoids. The only other neonicotinoid commonly used in U.S. agriculture is acetamiprid, and it has much lower toxicity than the nitroguanidine neonicotinoids. It is also not as long-lived, with a half-life of days compared to months to years for the nitroguanidine neonicotinoids.
It is worth noting that our prohibition on neonicotinoids goes beyond pesticide regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because the Bee Better Production Standards also prohibit the planting of seeds coated with any of the four nitroguanidine neonicotinoids.
Supply Chain Questions
How traceable are Bee Better Certified ingredients?
All ingredients labeled as “Bee Better Certified” must be sourced 100% from Bee Better Certified growers. We require full traceability, meaning that products can be tracked from the farms they are grown, through processing facilities and into the products you consume. Manufacturers and companies we work with are required to provide documentation which allows Oregon Tilth to verify traceability though their auditing process. In very rare cases— when full traceability is unfeasible due to the nature of the manufacturing process— we allow a mass-balance approach to sourcing, meaning that the amount of the certified ingredient that enters a facility is the same purchased by the product manufacturer but may not directly appear within the product bearing the Bee Better Certified Seal. Mass-balance is a common approach used by a number of certification programs. It can provide flexibility in sourcing for ingredients with complex supply chains. Farmers still benefit because their commodities are still sold as Bee Better Certified. Pollinators benefit because more ingredients can be certified, leading to more habitat.