EPA directly responsible for mass bee die-offs: scientific coverup of neonicotinoids continues
Ethan A. Huff
It’s said to be the most widely used class of pesticides in the world. But the scientific community has reached an overwhelming consensus that neonicotinoids are killing bees by the untold millions, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doing absolutely nothing to protect these important pollinators against this ongoing chemical genocide.
Beekeepers everywhere are reporting dramatic hive losses as a result of neonicotinoids, which are not only sprayed on food crops, but also applied to seeds before planting. These treated seeds eventually grow into full-size plants that contain neonicotinoids at the systemic level, meaning they produce these noxious chemicals in their nectar and pollen, which is later picked up by bees.
When bees who feed on neonicotinoid-treated crops return back to the hive, they end up poisoning the entire swarm, leading to mass bee deaths. And this phenomenon has become a serious problem all throughout the world, and especially in the U.S. where the $15 billion per year agriculture industry relies on bees to pollinate food crops.
“Beekeepers and scientists point to a suite of factors impacting bee health,” writes Elizabeth Grossman for Civil Eats. “But fundamentally, what’s stressing bees most is our current approach to agriculture: extensive pesticide use, crop monocultures, and planting patterns that have eliminated many of the blooming plants important to bees.”
“Recent science also shows that multiple pesticide exposures are weakening bee immune systems and making them more vulnerable to diseases and pests.”
EPA doesn’t consider neonicotinoid seed treatments as ‘pesticide use,’ so farmers can use as much as they want
The main problem with neonicotinoids is that they damage the immune systems of bees, making them more vulnerable to diseases and pests. And they do this at exposure levels well within the range of what the EPA considers “safe,” which is why many concerned groups are urging the federal government to reassess the safety of this particular class of chemicals.
Back in the 1990s when the EPA first approved neonicotinoids for use in agriculture, little was known about their true toxicity. It was generally understood that neonicotinoids are toxic to bees at high levels of exposure, but little was known about the so-called “trace” levels that are commonly found in and on treated plants.
A recent draft assessment issued by the EPA in response to widespread concerns about neonicotinoid safety has determined that imidacloprid, one of the most commonly used neonicotinoids, is toxic to bees at “residue levels” above 25 parts per billion (ppb). Anything above this threshold, admits the EPA, may harm “pollinator hives.”
Such levels may not necessarily be present on crops that are just sprayed with imidacloprid, but they most surely are on crops grown from seeds that were pre-treated with the chemical. And since the EPA doesn’t consider seed treatments to be “pesticide use,” the sky’s the limit when it comes to how much farmers can legally use.
Treating seeds with neonicotinoids has “all the effects of a pesticide poisoning,” says American Beekeeping Federation president Gene Brandi, who along with the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and others has expressed serious concerns about the continued use of neonicotinoids.
“Not only do these systemic pesticides end up throughout the crop plants and get transported back to hives,” adds Grossman, “but when they’re used on corn seeds, their neonicotinoid coating often flies off as dust when the seeds are planted mechanically.”
“This material, he says, contaminates vegetation on field borders and ‘you end up with a lot of queen [bee] mortality that ties directly to spring planting.'”
On January 6, a cohort of beekeepers, farmers, and environmental groups filed an official lawsuit against the EPA for its neglect in properly handling the neonicotinoid issue. By failing to properly regulate the use of neonicotinoids as a seed treatment, the EPA is in violation of its regulatory duties, the lawsuit maintains.
Sources for this article include: