Bees face toxic challenge with suspect insecticide

By Thad Box - June 2009 - opinion

It is generally accepted that toxic bank loans caused our financial system to collapse. Now it appears that toxic substances are causing collapse of a whole host of pollinators that keep natural systems functioning efficiently. And the collapses of both the financial and biological systems are part of a larger system failure. Beginning in the 1990s, beekeepers began to suspect the systemic insecticide imidacloprid for death of bees. This is a product that is taken up by plants and becomes systemic, that is it is stored in and moves through the plant system. Once the chemical is in the nectar and pollen of the plant, nothing can protect pollinators who gather the poisoned food.

Imidacloprid a suspect
When imidacloprid was introduced in Europe, French beekeepers claimed it produced “mad bee disease.” France banned its use on major crops such as sunflowers and corn. Studies were made; results are inconclusive. Beekeepers claim it kills their bees. The chemical companies say it is safe. In America the EPA allowed use of the insecticide, primarily on data supplied by the manufacturer. There are no scientific studies that show conclusively that systemic insecticides cause bee colony collapse. But studies show imidacloprid is highly toxic to earthworms, birds, bees, some fish and other non-target species.
The National Honey Bee Advisory Board, representing both the American Beekeepers Federation and the American Honey Producers, presented case studies from North Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, Florida and California that circumstantially link imidacloprid to bee Colony Collapse Disorder. They want the pesticide
banned in the United States.

Base rules on objective studies
Imidacloprid is available for insect control on roses, lawn, vegetables, fruit trees, ornamentals and crops. It is available on the Internet for treating termites, fleas on pets, household pests — almost anything you can imagine.
Organizations take extreme positions ranging from it screws up everything (Sierra Club of Canada) to that iit is safe and the savior of the farmer (Bayer’s “expert overview”). The scary point is that we do not have good
studies to show the chemical’s effect on the broad pollination system.
Beekeepers with NHBAB ask, “How did we find ourselves at a point where an extremely dangerous chemical compound has come into such widespread use, threatening the very existence and viability of the pollination framework of the country?
The answer is simple: deregulation.
The same concept that precipitated our financial collapse has precipitated an environmental collapse no less serious. At the same time that financial institutions were being given a free reign to regulate themselves on the naïve assumption that industry knew best, pesticide regulation was being turned over from EPA to industry on the same assumption.
For the past eight years our government has been of industry, by industry and for industry. It put foxes in charge of every henhouse. It tolerated toxic loans, unsafe drugs, melamine-adulterated food, polluted air, contaminated water, kid-killer toys — the list goes on. It is time to go back to making rules based on objective studies done by independent scientists. We must re-establish government of the people, by the people, for the people.