(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2014) In the face of public outcry and protest, chemical-industry giant, Syngenta, has withdrawn its emergency application to allow the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on United Kingdom (UK) oilseed rape crops (known as canola in the U.S.). The application, filed earlier this year in anticipation of the UK canola growing season, claimed that canola farmers would suffer irreparable damage from pests without the use of neonicotinoids that had been banned under a temporary two-year European Union (EU). The EU’s directive that went into effect at the end of 2013 and will continue through 2015 was enacted to protect the severely declining and threatened bee populations ””a problem throughout Europe and the world.
While many factors contribute to the bee decline, neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticides, have been linked through numerous studies to the significant decline and were determined by the European Food Safety Authority to be a “high acute risk.” Neonicotinoids are often used as a seed coating on agricultural crops as well as in foliar applications, affecting bee and pollinator survival at several different levels. Whereas foliar applications can lead to mass-die offs and acute toxicity, systemic applications to seeds subject bees and other pollinators to continuous and destructive sublethal doses. Even at sublethal levels, the pesticides impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response.
According to Reuters, over 200,000 people protested against the emergency application via a campaign website, with around 35,000 more writing to environment secretary Owen Paterson and asking ministers to “stand firm against Syngenta” and not let chemicals believed to be harmful to bee populations be used.
Protections for Pollinators and People Here at Home
Despite the victory for pollinators and public health across the pond, there continues to be a mounting pile of inaction and counter-protective measures happening in the U.S. concerning pollinators, neonicotinoids, and pesticides in general. For example, despite petitions, lawsuits, and pleas from beekeepers and other groups, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to rein in the unnecessary use of neonicotinoid products. And, emergency petitions (like the one filed by Syngenta) for all kinds of pesticides, like the one filed by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) for propazine, continue to threaten the few protections against dangerous chemicals that plague the environment and the species that depend on it.
During the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauded this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S. Download the Press Release.
Given that one in every three bites of food is dependent on pollination, and that commercial beekeeping adds between $20 to $30 billion dollars in economic value to agriculture each year in the U.S., it is imperative that action is taken to protect bees and other pollinators. Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective supports nationwide local action to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides. Numerous educations materials are available to encourage municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms.
For more visit BEE Protective. Source: Reuters Image: “Close up of blooms on a canola plant near Yorkton, Saskatchewan” by Canada Hky
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.