Two new studies confirm that common pesticides are scrambling the circuits of bees’ brains. Researchers report that certain neonicotinoids and an organophosphate pesticide — particularly in combination — interfere with the insects' ability to learn, smell or remember, all critical capacities for foraging honey bees.
With other options exhausted over the past two years, beekeepers and partner organizations are now suing EPA to protect pollinators. We've filed over a million signatures from concerned individuals, a legal petition and a notice of intent to sue. And all to little avail. Now we're upping the ante.
There's too much at stake for EPA to stay stuck. Bees are in trouble, and they're vital to our food system and our agricultural economy. They're responsible for pollinating one in three bites of food we eat, including 95 types of fruits and nuts in North America. And commercial beekeepers report that their industry is on the verge of collapse.
Turns out, the pesticides that harm bees are also harming birds. According to a report out this week, the class of widely used, systemic insecticides that science shows are a key factor in dramatic bee die-offs are also contributing to falling bird populations.
At a congressional briefing yesterday, an expert panel highlighted the damage that neonicotinoid pesticides — or "neonics" — inflict on bees, birds and the agricultural economy. Beekeepers, scientists and public interest organizations called on elected officials to take action, and soon.
Last week, the European Commission announced its position against the use of bee-harming neonicotinoid insecticides, urging nations within the European Union (EU) to impose a two-year suspension on their use. Great news for bees across the pond.
But here in the U.S., policymakers aren't stepping up. EPA officials are continuing to ignore the emerging body of science that point to pesticides, and especially neonicotinoid insecticides, as a critical factor in bee declines. What's worse, the agency is poised to approve yet another bee-harming pesticide.
Earlier this week the European Food Safety Association issued a report concluding that neonicotinoids ("neonics") pose an unacceptably high risk to bees, and that the industry-sponsored science upon which regulatory agencies' claims of safety have relied are fatally flawed.
...which is exactly what we've been saying since 2010, when we publicized the "leaked memo" showing that EPA has allowed clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) to remain on the market despite the absence of any solid science demonstrating the chemical's safety for bees. Last spring, PAN conducted our own evaluation of the state of the science on pesticides and bees and reached many of the same conclusions outlined in EFSA's comprehensive review of the science (see their full report). The science is not the surprise here.
“We’re facing the extinction of a species.” That’s what one Midwest-based large-scale commercial beekeeper told me last week at the annual gathering of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). And he meant it.
Bee losses have been dramatic, especially in recent years. And beekeepers are feeling the sting. According to many who manage hives, commercial beekeeping won’t pencil out in the future unless things change, and soon.
Across the pond, the buzz is all about the impacts of pesticides on bees. Both the U.S. EPA, and its British counterpart, Defra, have been slow to act on the growing body of scientific evidence that would protect bees. But a series of important hearings may signal important changes afoot in that country.
Standing outside EPA headquarters in Washington DC yesterday, beekeepers — flanked by Center for Food Safety, PAN and Beyond Pesticides — called for immediate action to protect bees from hazardous pesticides.
It’s not the first time EPA has been asked to take action. Far from it. For the past two years beekeepers, PAN and allies — including more than a million people across the country — have submitted numerous public and legal petitions urging the Agency to move more quickly in its evaluation of bee-harming pesticides, and fix the flawed process for allowing them on the market in the first place.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the book that galvanized an extraordinary cross-section of the American public into what we now call the environmental movement. Fifty years later, her courage, skill and sacrifice still inspire, and her legacy remains the contested terrain of some of our country’s most disabling rituals of political partisanship. Pesticides still function as a kind of litmus test: either you’re for farmers and progress and “sound science,” or you’re in the camp of those reflexively “chemophobic” tree-hugging “environmentalists.” And your loyalties to one or the other of these tribes can be indexed to how you feel about pesticides.
All too often, the rules of pesticide regulation are cumbersome and make for slow change. But EPA had an opportunity to take swift, decisive action to protect bees — and they let it pass.
Today, the agency announced it is denying the request by beekeepers to declare Bayer's pesticide, clothianidin, an "imminent hazard" to bees and will not be suspending the chemical's use.