A new map showing man's dominance of the planet. The area in green represents farmland, covering a much wider area than earlier thought. Map by USGS.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Give me Spots on my Apples, but Leave Me the Birds and the Bees!
European Union (EU) banned three pesticides (Imidacloprid, Clothianidin
and Thiamethoxam) last week to protect rapidly declining bee
pollination is essential to the functioning of our ecosystem and the
production of all fruits and vegetables. When bee populations start to
mysteriously and rapidly die-off, it’s a big deal.
pesticides in question -- from a chemical family known as
neonicotinoids -- are neurotoxins. Bayer (yes, the aspirin company) is
the largest global manufacturer of these chemicals which have been on
the market for a decade. Originally they were billed as “safer” than
last decade global bee populations have been declining at disturbing
rate. Investigations are underway in Europe and North America to
conclusively determine why the bees are dying, though neonicotinoid
pesticides have long been a suspect. The US Environmental Protection
Agency believes declining bee populations is the result of several
causes including: climate change; habitat loss; mites; and pesticides.
Then last spring bee keepers in Canada, US
and Europe reported a massive loss of bees. Analysis of the dead bees
confirmed they were killed by neonicotinoid pesticides. It’s this latest
data that lead to the new EU ban that is now in effect.
Two Paths: Thoughtful vs. Wishful Thinking
Science prompted the EU to respond with a two
year ban and further studies – a wise “precautionary principal”
approach. On the other hand, Canada and the U.S. responded by “talking”
to farmers, farm machinery makers and chemical companies about “better”
pesticide use practices. Canada
and the U.S. concluded the latest die-off was caused by of a “hot dry
spring” and resulting “dusty conditions” that led to neonicotinoid
pesticides becoming airborne and affecting the bees. Essentially their
argument is: Pesticides are not the problem – it’s that darn dust that
the pesticides attach themselves to that killed the bees!
Ontario Bee Keepers Association agrees the extremely hot and dry 2012
summer was indeed a major factor leading to the exceptionally high death
rate observed. But the beekeepers point out the Canadian government’s
analysis simply does NOT explain the decade long collapse of bee
populations, and seriously question how much farmers can really change
when and the how they plant corn -- and all commercial corn planted in
Ontario is treated with neonicotinoids. The Canada/US approach is
cautious about changing the status quo. Some might say it is more
protective of the chemical companies than the bees.
are pretty clear: bee populations are in free-fall. Perhaps there are
multiple causes, but the only factor we can control and firmly take
action on is the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. That’s why we’re
strongly supporting beekeepers in their call for a ban on neonicotinoid
pesticides (like in the EU).
You may remember last week we asked the
Federal Minister responsible for pesticide regulation to join the EU and
ban these bee-killing chemicals. Our intervention helped put the issue
on the radar in Canada and, as a result, we spent nearly a week doing
media interviews. The beekeepers have urged us to “keep up the
pressure”. The Club agreed to help and is launching a national BEE PETITION to raise public awareness and pressure the Feds to do the right thing and ban these bee-killing pesticides.