As stated before in the news about the EU’s heated debate over the use of neonicotinoids – a nicotine-like pesticide, the world’s most widely used – there’s hope for the bees because the issue is not going away. The buzz is growing in North America as well, but not from the bees who are disappearing due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – and neonicotinoids are just one smoking gun.
A coalition of interest groups, activists and beekeepers took the issue into their own hands on Thursday to slash the use of bee-killing pesticides in an effort to protect them and the future of food. Pesticide Action Network (PAN), Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and four beekeepers are among the team who want bees safe from the chemicals that include clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Even if it takes suing the government. How are they able to bring a case against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for this problem?
The claim is that the EPA is responsible for dropping the ball when they let the manufacturers Bayer Crop Science and Syngenta enter into conditional registration for their use and acted illegally to allow it. Those chemicals are no longer considered safe for pollinators – they are supposed to only kill pests.
Paul Towers of PAN told TakePart:
We are taking the EPA to court for its failure to protect bees from pesticides. Despite our best efforts to warn the agency about the problems posed by neonicotinoids, the EPA continued to ignore the clear warning signs of an ag system in trouble.
He blames pesticides for this year’s California bee shortage and subsequent almond crop threat. He finds this to be reason alone to pay attention, but there are many more (below).
He echoes the concerns in the EU – these aren’t just periodic sprays that can be washed off (not that that would help) — they’re systemic chemicals applied on the seeds and throughout the plant’s life. They are integrated into the plant and end up in the pollen and nectar. And, they end up in the corn that is used to make high fructose corn syrup – often fed to bees.
This is what kills them – multiple studies have proven these very pesticides are involved in their decline. One even recreated CCD with extremely low amounts, and it only took weeks before the researchers saw the telltale signs: bees mysteriously gone except for a few dead ones nearby, and food stores with some young ones left in the hive. Towers says this class of pesticides remains in the soil and in the next planting.
This isn’t just a California problem. The finger pointing has been active across the country, including Ohio, where bees are needed to pollinate more than 70 crops, including apples, pumpkins and berries. Bee die offs there were rampant last spring. (Bayer, by the way, sponsored seminars for beekeepers in Ohio—a move that stung critics. Doh!) And the story is repeated from Illinois to the Carolinas. The Europeans are alarmed at bee population crashes as well, and tried to limit a trio of pesticides, but failed.
What’s worse, and something that is still under the radar – Silent Spring is back with a vengeance. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) noticed bee, bird and aquatic death during independent review. They called on the EPA for a ban on Tuesday. Cynthia Palmer is their Pesticide Program Manager. She said:
It is clear that these chemicals have the potential to affect entire food chains. The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise significant environmental concerns.
She made a single corn kernel coated with the pesticide sound like a bird’s version of cyanide pills – because that’s all it takes to kill one. Even tiny wheat and canola grains can do that. And 1/10th of that amount during egg laying season can affect the entire reproductive cycle. They are asking people to be careful about birdseed too.
For all those who say there’s not enough evidence – definitely check out ABC’s report indicating 200 studies pointing to neonicotinoids in animal death. Ignoring the threat makes the EPA sound complicit in mass ecological death.
We’re often told by companies like Monsanto that these pesticides or genetically modified plants are only designed to destroy the stomachs of insects – not comforting. When we consider that the treadmill of pesticide use is now killing birds from a single kernel, we have to wonder about the effects of chowing down hundreds of pounds of it each year in processed, boxed, fast foods and chemical produce. Also, neonicotinoids synergize with some fungicides heavily introduced in the mid-2000s when we saw a sharp bee drop-off. That makes fungicides more toxic to them and kills the immune response needed to withstand gut pathogens. This PAN writer explains the train wreck very well.
For all the accolades Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring received in the ’60s, I think what she wanted was for it to affect change. The EPA, whom we pay to protect the environment, is not doing its job when they cater to big corporate interest despite the severe weakening of important ecological chain links.
And most researchers agree that ecology is complicated; even just one aspect like bees and their hives. They don’t like to point the finger at only one cause, but reflect that a variety of factors are at play. For instance, things that weaken the bees, leave them vulnerable to mites and disease, so it poses problems finding cause and effect. One has recently said that even with great change, it would be some years before we see the good ‘ol days of thriving bees.
Do you want a more direct way to help? It’s not just a hobby – anyone can do it! Interestingly enough – especially if you live in the city. Check out this encouraging short vid about it by TakePart:
American Bird Conservancy’s Report:
The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds
Also see what’s up in the EU:
EU Bee-Killing Pesticide Ban Crumbles Under Corporate Interests
Note: it looks like there’s consternation over whether Albert Einstein said the quote in the pic. Just pretend his name isn’t on it – it doesn’t take an “einstein” to see the truth in it. Hopefully the pic which seemed suitable for this article doesn’t detract from the information.