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Bee health debate heats up over pesticides

John Walter Updated: 12/09/2013 @ 1:30pm

A new national campaign to restrict use of a widely applied group of pesticides is bringing increased attention to the question of how to improve the health of honeybees and other pollinators. 

This week a full-page advertisement appeared in major U.S. newspapers calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to impose a moratorium on use of neonicotinoids, a type of chemical used in seed treatments and other insecticides. 

A large group of advocacy and environmental organizations, organic food businesses, and agricultural activists signed the petition, which cites the website Save-Bees.org. The ad was paid for by the Ceres Trust. 

The ad also endorsed a U.S. House Bill, Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which seeks to require EPA to suspend the registration of a group of neonicotinoid insecticides used in seed treatments and other products until proving that the insecticide aren’t causing “unreasonable adverse effects" on pollinators.  

“This week, 15 countries are imposing a two-year restriction on the use of several of these chemicals,” the ad stated. Currently, EPA is not expected to take further action until 2018, it said. “Bees can’t wait five more years — they are dying now.” 

The pollinators bill in the House, introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is cosponsored by 38 Democrats. In other recent action, House Republicans prepared a draft report directing EPA to further review neonicotinoids for their impact on pollinators. The draft from the House appropriations committee stated that research suggests that the pesticides increase threats to bee health, according to a report from Insideepa.com. 

Also, a federal lawsuit in a U.S. district court pits environmentalists against manufacturers over the claim that pollinator impacts are unavoidable because of their systemic mode of action, which places the chemicals in the plant pollen, nectar, leaves, and stems.

Pesticide manufacturers and other agricultural interests have pointed to a recent report from EPA and USDA showing that there is no “smoking gun,” no single cause, in the honeybee health crisis. 

The report, released last spring, cited multiple factors for the decline in honeybee colony numbers, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition, and pesticide exposure.

The Save-Bees.org campaign “distorts the real situation regarding pollinator health and repeats the same unsupported accusations regarding the use of critical crop protection products,” says Robyn Kneen, head of the Bayer North American Bee Care Program. Bayer is a manufacturer of neonicotinoid products.

“While our industry recognizes the importance of honeybees to agriculture and supports reasonable measures to protect them, it is incorrect and irresponsible to suggest that neonicotinoid insecticides are responsible for declines in bee colony health,” Kneen told Agriculture.com. “Calls by advocacy groups to ban neonicotinoids would only hurt the American farmer and would have no appreciable benefit to bee colony health."

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A POISONOUS CONSPIRACY 12/10/2013 @ 3:16am Mr Walter, your article is fundamentally wrong in at least one vital respect. It is not "15 countries" which have banned neonicotinoids as of this week; it is the 27 countries of the entire European Union - with a combined population of over 500 million people. The countries who have banned the three most bee-toxic neonics include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It is important to grasp that this was a hard-Science-based policy decision, recommended by a board of over 60 expert toxicologists who comprise the European Food Safety Agency (the equivalent of the EPA and USDA combined). EFSA looked at over 150 peer reviewed science studies dating from 1998-2013 and advised that the vast majority concluded that neonicotinoids were the PRIMARY factor in the mass death of bee colonies which has been suffered in every single country where neonicotinoids have been introduced. Imidacloprid (Bayer's pesticide 'Gaucho') was first introduced in France in 1994, as a seed coating for Sunflowers; within a year the French had lost 1,000,000 bee colonies and hundreds of bee farmers had been driven into bankruptcy. Bayer claimed the cause was varroa mites, but failed to explain why the French had suffered no bee holocaust in the years from 1960-94 - when varroa mites were present in every hive in France. American bee losses began in the mid 1990s as Bayer rolled out neonics in the USA but they really took off in 2003 when the EPA gave Clothianidin a license for use on corn, despite the fact that the EPA's own scientists strongly recommended a ban, owing to its ultra-poisonous effects on honeybees and its high persistence in soil and water - including human drinking water. Since 2003, American bee-farmers have lost at least 10,000,000 bee colonies, worth at least $2 billion - possibly much more. There is no mystery here. Neonics are fantastically poisonous to bees, insects and birds. Bees are killed at a dose of 3 parts per BILLION ! That is equivalent to one tablespoon of poison diluted in 1000 metric tonnes of water (an Olympic sized swimming pool). These are neurotoxins; brain-killing poisons derived from WWII Nerve Gas weapons - and the EPA has allowed Bayer and Syngenta to spread these poisons over more than 200 million acres of American crops annually. Many bee-farmers have been driven into debt or bankruptcy; most American farmland has been reduced to a chemically drenched ecological desert - and American food has been infused with nerve-gas derived poisons which are, on average, more than 8,000 times more toxic to bees and birds than is DDT. This is no mere academic debate over agricultural policy or the macro economics of the grain commodity markets. It is perfectly clear that the so-called Environmental Protection Agency is operating under a False Flag; it may be an Agency, (hat gobbles up $10billion of taxpayer's cash annually) but it has nothing whatever to do with 'Environmental Protection'. On the contrary, this rogue Agency, ignores the recommendations of its own Science Division; ignores all peer reviewed Science which does not come from Bayer and Syngenta's own pesticide funded labs; rubber stamps EVERY pesticide which the industry submits for licensing - and refuses, point blank to look at what is actually happening in front of its very eyes. American beekeeping is on its knees; American birdlife on farms has crashed by up to 50% in every state where neonics are used - and the amount of pesticides being used annually is of the order of 500 billion lbs weight. Time for America to wake up before it is too late; if the neonicotinoids are not quickly banned in America, it may not merely be the birds and bees which become extinct; it may be American farming itself.

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Re: Re: A POISONOUS CONSPIRACY 05/18/2014 @ 1:28pm I appreciate your honest and informative reply.

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Neonicitinoid Pesticides 12/09/2013 @ 7:53pm Mr. Walter, It would serve you well in the future to talk with beekeepers in regard to beekeeping problems. Pesticides are always a problem in regard to insects, it's what they are designed to do. This family of pesticides is pervasive in the environment today and is not used in the customary methods which would be to use the minimum pesticide possible in a manner as safe as possible to deal with the specific pest problem one is experiencing. With seed coating treatments most field crops are being treated with millions of pounds of pesticide in a prophylactic manner whether pest problems are present or not. With seed coating treatments, when farmers plant in a good wind some of the pesticide ends up in areas far removed from the field. They are also translocating into species that bees rely on for nectar and pollen. Beekeepers have been suffering poor crops and poor bee health ever since these products have been used actively. Other countries have already banned these products and new studies come out almost weekly that are indicating the effects they have on all types of bees, moths, butterflies and marine invertebrates. With all due respect to the Bayer corporation and Robyn Kneen, they have much to loose if these products are pulled from the market which hardly makes for an unbiased viewpoint in the matter. Kind of similar to interviewing Phillip Morris in the debate over whether tobacco caused cancer or not 30 years ago. It would be good to speak with those affected and those without an economically biased viewpoint when putting together information on a topic such as this. In this case, the American Beekeeping Federation or the American Honey Producers Association or any of our USADA bee labs would have been good contact points for a well balanced article. Tim Tucker, Vice -President, The American Beekeeping Federation and commercial beekeeper.

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