Care2 has featured a lot of stories on the devastation of colony collapse disorder and the numerous dangerous consequences of allowing bees to die. Although pesticides seem to be a pretty obvious cause of the problem, authorities have been hesitant to assign blame to any potential offenders.
After years of unproven allegations, Ben Hill Griffin Inc., a generations-old citrus growing business in Frostproof, Florida, is the first in the state to be found guilty of wrongful spraying. On at least four occasions, Ben Hill Griffin Inc. sprayed illegal pesticides with the intention of killing psyllids, insects that can ravage citrus crops. However, the Imidacloprid present in the banned insecticide also destroyed millions of bees in the area, as well.
The maximum fine allowed for such infractions is $10,000 per incident, but even that amount seems like too small of a deterrent. The fact that the Bureau of Compliance Monitoring decided to charge only $1,500 total out of the legally permitted $40,000 shows how frivolous the oversight agency takes the matter, as well. Florida law stipulates that the Bureau can lower fines when illegal pesticide use results in minimal harm, but it’s hard to fathom how millions of dead honeybees can be considered minimal harm.
The laughable fine also demonstrates that Florida agriculture officials are siding against the beekeepers. Barry Hart, who has been a beekeeper for nearly 30 years, watched millions of his bees die after coming in contact with Ben Hill Griffin’s land. Hart earns a living from honey production and says he took a $150,000 hit as a result of the extermination of his bees. Though he’s glad there’s finally a case where the government is holding farms responsible for pesticide misuse, Hart acknowledges, “$1,500 ain’t nothing to the grove people.”
After witnessing millions of his own bees dying as well, fellow beekeeper Randall Foti did some investigating of his own. A veteran with more than four decades of beekeeping experience, Foti located empty containers of the illegal pesticide on the grove’s property. Suffering an estimated $250,000 in losses from this illicit spraying, Foti reported his finding to the authorities.
The discovery of this evidence was critical to finally linking a big farm to insecticide violations. Though local beekeepers have filed a number of similar allegations over the past few years, officials claim they never had the concrete proof necessary to hold businesses responsible.
Considering how “impossible” it seems to prosecute bee-killing businesses, that’s all the more reason that governing officials should have made an example of Ben Hill Griffin, Inc. By fining the company an insignificant amount, authorities have done nothing to discourage fellow farmers from employing similar illegal pesticide spraying practices.
It’s comparable to the government assigning $10,000 fines to big banks for committing acts of fraud that allowed them to profit hundreds of millions of dollars. At some point, executives consider the fines a minor business expense that was essentially a non-risk.
Unfortunately, the consequences of these pesticide violations aren’t simply a matter of money; it’s absurd to think that the destruction of the environment and our food supply can be valued at $1,500.