Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beekeepers want EPA to ban pesticides they blame for colony collapses

Beekeepers and environmentalists are supporting a proposed ban of pesticides developed by Bayer CropScience Inc., suggesting that two of its most prolific products, imidacloprid and clothianidin, are responsible for the recent phenomenon of bee colony collapse.

Julia Scott writes for Salon that since 2006, when colony collapse was first identified, American beekeepers have lost at least a third of their bees, threatening the food supply. In response, the National Honeybee Advisory Board, which represents the two biggest beekeeper associations in the U.S., requested that the Environmental Protection Agency ban imidacloprid. Clint Walker, a co-chairman of the board told Scott, "We believe imidacloprid kills bees -- specifically, that it causes bee colonies to collapse."

Critics argue that the EPA's initial decision to allow imidacloprid on the market in 1994 was careless. Current EPA literature calls it "very highly toxic" to honeybees and other beneficial insects. In 2003, Scott reports, EPA described clothianidin as "highly toxic to honeybees on an acute contact basis," and suggested that chronic exposure could lead to effects on the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen. Despite such claims, the EPA authorized the chemicals for market. "If the EPA had sufficient concern about harm to bees that they would insist on other studies, it seemed unwise to approve it anyway and ask for research after the fact," says Aaron Colangelo, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The EPA's job is to make a decision about whether a chemical is safe or not."

As EPA began pesticide studies this year, it announced that review of clothianidin and other chemicals in the same family would not start until 2012. Beekeepers and environmentalists are hoping the U.S. will follow France and Germany and ban the products. But Scott suggests that is unlikely for imidacloprid, because it is used under the Bayer label in more than 120 countries "on more than 140 crop varieties, as well as on termites, flea collars and home garden landscaping. And the product's patent expired a few years ago, paving the way for it to be sold as a generic insecticide by dozens of smaller corporations. In California alone, imidacloprid is the central ingredient in 247 separate products sold by 50 different companies." (Read more).


Kent Flanagan, aka Punster, said...

I'm reminded of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring." Perhaps it's time to reread this classic indictment of a popular pesticide of the time. I do not doubt that I will find unassailable parallels to the current situation. I'd be willing to bet that the empirical evidence of beekeepers will be proven by thorough scientific studies that should have been done before the pesticides were approved for use.

Stacia Nordin said...

when are we going to wake up and take care of ourselves and our home?