Honey Bees and Pesticides

by updated 2012/04/02

Finally some much needed attention is being paid to the role of certain pesticides in the Honey Bee disaster known as Colony Collapse Disorder.  This definitely falls into the category of “are any of us really surprised”?  I know I am not surprised, having long thought the evidence of pesticide playing a part in the disorder was plain to see.  But studies must be done and now the results of those studies are starting to be publicized.  The real question is will regulating authorities listen and stand up to the monster corporations that make millions on the sale and use of these pesticides?

Beekeepers and environmental organizations are paying attention of course, and have filed an emergency request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get some additional control and limitations on the use of the pesticides known as neonicotinoids Four years ago (!) a video on the dangers of pesticides to bees plainly stated the concerns everyone had at the time. Everyone at least it seems other than EPA officials and the pesticide manufacturers  Studies are now being completed that support the fears beekeepers and others had years ago.  Will these studies result in action now being taken to limit these pesticides?  It is just my old uneducated opinion, but here is what I think.

The neonicotinoid pesticides, like so many other chemicals were approved for use based in part on studies funded by the pesticide manufacturers.  Conflict of interest maybe?  Definitively.  This is a common procedure though because the regulators do not have the money to finance enough independent research to make sure products like this are safe before being approved.  Certainly the chemical manufacturers and even some of the regulators would claim that the industry studies are controlled and reviewed to the point where they can be relied on.  My common sense, however, tells me otherwise.

Now that enough time has passed so that independent studies are showing the long Honey Bee Collecting Nectarsuspected link between these pesticides and colony collapse, will action to limit the use of neonicotinoids be taken?  Don’t hold your collective breaths.  The pesticides are now not only very popular with farmers and big commercial food growers, they have made their way into hundreds of products used by homeowners and gardeners.  This is a multimillion, (maybe multibillion?), dollar industry now and companies like Bayer and others will not allow tighter regulation to occur without a big, expensive, fight.

Just as one example of agricultural use of these pesticides; 90% or more of all corn seed is coated with the chemicals.  When the corn grows, the chemical is then found in all parts of the corn plant, including the nectar and pollen that bees collect.  Now the manufacturers, and even some federal regulators, say the levels found in corn plants are not great enough to harm bees.  Recent studies, however, are starting to show otherwise.  Additionally, my pesky common sense is telling me that if the levels are high enough to control the insect pests of the corn, how could they not be high enough to have a harmful effect on the bees?

But how arrogant am I paying any attention at all to my common sense on this issue?  Maybe, just maybe, a whole lot less arrogant and less self-interested than these pesticide manufacturers are when they pay attention only to their bottom line.

Will Sig

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