March 26, 2013 by ohnwentsya | Leave a comment
Worst bee die-off in 40 years
Posted Mar. 25, 2013 / Posted by: Lisa Archer
Spring is in the air, and as we plant our vegetable gardens and enjoy
the blossoming flowers, its easy to forget the small creatures that
keep many of our spring favorites alive and are essential to our food
One out of every three bites of food you and I eat is pollinated by
honeybees. In fact, bees and other pollinators are necessary for about 75 percent of our global food crops.
From nuts and soybeans, to squash and cucumbers, from apples, oranges,
cherries and blueberries, to avocados, peaches and melons, bees play a
critical role in producing the food we eat. Honey bees also contribute over $15 billion
to the U.S. economy. Bees are a keystone species and with roughly 80
percent of all flowering plants on the earth reliant on pollinators to
reproduce, if we lose bees we will likely lose a host of other important
As you may have read in the news, these critical pollinators are in trouble, victims of Colony Collapse Disorder
or CCD, a phenomenon in which bee colonies have been mysteriously
collapsing when adult bees seemingly abandon their hives. This last
winter, beekeepers reported bee die-offs of more than 50 percent the worst loss in more than 40 years.
CCD has pushed the beekeeping industry in the U.S. to the verge of
collapse, and this could spell trouble for a variety of our favorite
foods from almonds to blueberries.
For years, the cause of CCD was a scientific mystery, but a growing
body of scientific evidence is pointing to a key factor, a class of
neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics. In fact, a
January 2013 EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) report labeled neonicotinoids as an ‘unacceptable’ danger to bees. And a new report from the American Bird Conservancy provides compelling evidence that neonics are also harming birds.
Neonics are the fastest-growing class of synthetic pesticides in
history, and the neonicotinoid imidacloprid (Bayer Crop Science’s top-selling
product), is currently the most widely used insecticide in the world.
Neonics are used as seed treatments on more than 140 crop varieties, as
well as on termites, cat and dog flea treatments, lawns, landscapes and
gardens. Neonics are persistent and last for years in the soil. They
permeate the entire plant and are expressed in pollen, nectar and
guttation droplets (dew). And, they cant be washed off food, meaning
that we are all eating them.
Whats worse, Neonics arent just in use in commercial agriculture.
Many of the plants and seeds we buy in nurseries across the U.S. have
been pre-treated with the pesticides and at much higher doses than is
used on farms so when we plant our gardens we may unwittingly be harming
The EPA approved Bayer’s products based on the companies own studies and despite mounting evidence including a memo by the EPAs own scientists
discrediting Bayers original study and 1.25 million public comments,
the EPA has delayed action on neonics until 2018. Other governments
havent been so slow to act. Governments in Italy, Germany, France and
elsewhere have already taken action to limit neonics, and beekeepers
there are reporting recovery.
The 2013 EFSA study has prompted the EU Parliament to consider a
two-year ban on three popular neonics. And, due to a successful campaign
by our sister organization Friends of the Earth England, Wales,
Northern Ireland (EWNI), many of the major home and garden retailers in
the UK have pledged to stop selling neonics.
Bees really are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to our
food, telling us that the way we produce our food is unhealthy and
unsustainable and needs a rapid transition to sustainable, just,
ecological agriculture. A new USDA study
shows that we could move away from chemically intensive industrial
agriculture toward a system of ecologically friendly agriculture and
continue to produce enough food for us all.
Friends of the Earth has some exciting actions coming up to save the
bees and other pollinators. Youll have an important role to play, so
check back soon.
And in the meantime, choose to buy organic food as much as possible,
and, as you plant your spring gardens, be sure to say no to the neonics
and choose certified organic seeds and plants to help protect bees and
Photo credit: Maciej Czyżewsk, Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons
roughly 80 percent of all flowering plants
Categories: Blog, Food and Technology
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