BRADENTON -- "No bees no honey no work no money," we may need to add to the list, "no dinner" too. One third of the human diet relies on plants pollinated by insects, as does half of that of farm animals. 90 percent of native plant species that support habitat and food for the rest of the creatures on earth rely on pollinators to survive. Nearly all pollinators are in decline and many at an escalated rate that compares to no other time in history. Consequently, the world's food chain is at risk.
Pulitzer Prize winning insect biologist E.O. Wilson said, "The honeybee is nature's workhorse." Honeybees do about 80 percent of the entomophily (The science of pollination by insects), leaving other bees, moths, flies, birds and beetles to do the rest. Honeybees contribute over $25 billion in value every year to the U.S. food chain and seed supply. For the last six years, beekeepers from around the world have been recognizing a rapid decline in hive populations and are struggling with what has been labeled, "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD).
Over the last 50 years, five million bee colonies in the U.S. have been reduced to half that amount and a diminished food production seems to be the result. There are many reasons the colonies have decreased, but pesticides, herbicides, chemicals in air pollution and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are most suspect.
Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides and beekeepers from around the country are uniting to hold the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accountable for allowing the pesticide "Clothianidin" to remain on the market. There are more than 1.2 million citizen petitioners who have jointly filed a legal complaint to force the EPA into protecting pollinators from this dangerous pesticide known to be fatal to bees.
Clothianidin, (a neonicotinoid) is manufactured by German agrochemical company Bayer. It was approved in the U.S. by the EPA in 2003. There is limited ban on neonicotinoid use in Germany, France and Italy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that CCD has been destroying beehives at the rate of 30 percent a year since 2006, just a few years after the EPA approved the use of Clothianidn. Beekeepers struggle to replace 15 percent a year, bringing their tipping point to near end, triggering food chain perils.
The EPA has known the perils of the complete family of neonicotinoids, and for years has put off further testing. Their early test were designed around including pesticides like clothianidin, and even though they have admitted the need to collect findings, their plans to do so are kept on the back burner where Bayer prefers them to be. The EPA has developed a reputation of too little too late, and this is why many feel the EPA needs to drop the P.
Almond orchards were among the first to discover the sharp decline of bees and thus harvests. Bayer Agrochemical no longer suggests the use of "imidacloprid" (a neonicotinoid), a pesticide once recommended for almonds, because of the impact it has on bees. But here too, the EPA has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to protecting the people.
Bees are essential to feeding the more than seven billion people that populate the globe. Of the top 100 crops that feed the world, bees pollinate 70 of them. Should we ignore their significance? If not, isn't there a need to change the paradigm from reactionary to precautionary? Throwing mother nature under the bus has proven to be profitable for some corporations, but at what cost to everyone else.
For so work the honey-bees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom. ~ William Shakespeare
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