by Patrick Morency
I’m writing this blog in favor of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (H.R.2692)- introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in July of 2013- which would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence indicated they are safe and a field study demonstrates no harmful impact on pollinators.
By pollinating two-thirds of the world’s crops, bees and other pollinators provide a service valued at $20 billion in the United States and $217 billion globally. It is numbers like these that make worldwide declines in pollinator populations so concerning and illustrate the urgency with which scientists have sought a cause. Fortunately, progress has been made. There is a growing body of science that points to neonicotinoids as the key contributor to the massive decline we’ve seen in bees recently. These studies indicate that the neonicotinoid pesticides harm bees and other pollinators directly or increase their vulnerability to stressors such as mites, climate change, and habitat loss. In short, either the bees are killed or their nervous systems are compromised to the point that they can no longer function normally. In a scientific review, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees. In response, the European Commission implemented a two-year, continent-wide suspension of neonic usage.
Neonics are used as seed treatment pesticides on over 140 crops worldwide. In the U.S. alone, 90% of corn grown domestically is pretreated with neonics, along with large percentages of soy, wheat and canola. The global market for neonics is valued at $2.6 billion, with 3 huge sellers and one monstrosity of a seed corporation (I will leave them all unnamed, but they are easily found). With so much at stake, these massive multinational corporations have sought recourse by spinning the bee crisis to their advantage.
One tactic of these large corporations is to put together an offensive campaign which might say something like, “leading the way, saving the bees”. One of the sellers actually has a campaign slogan on the eighteen-wheelers they employ that reads, ‘bee care tour, a collaborative commitment to helping honey bees thrive.’ Thrive? Really? Another common strategy is to deflect blame by saying multiple factors play a role in pollinator decline and using biased scientific studies to confuse and misinform the public. The public is slowly becoming aware of this issue but, meanwhile, pesticide manufacturers are prolonging the supply of poison.
Being on the fringe of the beekeeper community myself, I have heard about neonicotinoids for a while, but the average citizen may not be as informed. All beekeepers to whom I have spoken agree that neonicotinoids are the reason for colony collapse and nervous system issues in bees, which have resulted in a massive decline of a species responsible for pollinating over 66% of our food. It’s crazy to me that enormous multinational companies are able to get away with such short-sighted, profit-driven business practices. It’s time to wake up to the realities of neonic use and say, “no!”
Big congratulations to B.J.s Wholesale club and Home Depot as the newest to enact a neonicotinoid labeling policy. Both retailers plan to work with suppliers to find alternative products. While it’s a far cry from the progressive legislature in Europe, it’s a start. So, if you’re buying flowers for the garden next spring at Home Depot, check for neonicotinoids on the label and say “NO!”
Support (H.R. 2692) Saving America’s Pollinators Act by contacting your representative, the EPA and informing your neighbors!