Unexplained honey bee die-offs in recent years, filed under Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), have been the focus of considerable research but very few solid answers. Now, according to the folks at the investigative news program Dan Rather Reports, the situation is worse than at first thought: “the whole food chain is at risk.”
Where is the finger pointing this time?
Systemic pesticides, self-regulation by the chemical industry, and a flawed process for testing and registration of products by the EPA…
We were researching an update on how honey bees were faring after years of unexplained colony deaths. Beekeepers are now losing an average of 30-50% of their hives each year from all kinds of symptoms. But our investigations found evidence that has led all the way back to the people who regulate our country’s pesticide program at the Environmental Protection Agency…
So what’s going on? One of the suspects, according to beekeepers and scientists, is relatively new on the market. Remember these words: systemic pesticides.
Systemic pesticides or neonicotinoids (derived from nicotine) are different from other types of pesticides used in agriculture. Neonicotinoids are absorbed by the plants to which they’re applied, making the entire plant toxic to insects. So the honey bees and other pollinators no longer would need to be sprayed directly or come into direct contact with a pesticide, in order to suffer the effects. The nectar and pollen themselves become toxic to honey bees.
According to the American news report, US beekeepers are worried for two reasons in particular. For one, the testing for safety is being done by the chemical companies who produce the systemic pesticides being tested, not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — “it’s like the fox designing the best chicken coop” — and because scientists no longer agree on what the “safe level” is when it comes to long-term impacts of agricultural chemicals on honey bees.
Currently there are more than 17,000 pesticide products on the market in the U.S., and scientists say there is much that remains unknown about their impact on the environment, including the effect of combinations of compounds. While many credit the EPA with doing a good job at making sure pesticides are safer and safer for humans, they have a lot to answer for when it comes to honey bees.
- Bee Aware. Dan Rather, Huffington Post. Posted: 9/22/11 12:00 PM ET
- Bee Aware, September 20, 2011. Dan Rather Reports, HDNet.