Things are not looking good for the honey bee. Entire colonies of bees are dying simultaneously, and no one knows why. Well, that’s not exactly true. Dozens of studies have linked the mass die-offs to a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids widely used in commercial agriculture.
Despite petitions and protests and yes, even a lawsuit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has refused to ban neonicotinoids. There have been plenty of discussions and promises of “we’re looking into it,” but nothing that would actually help prevent bee deaths. Including their latest tactic: a new bee-friendly label for the deadly pesticides.
“The EPA is taking action to protect bees from pesticide exposure and these label changes will further our efforts,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a press release.
The new labels include a bee advisory box and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. According to the EPA, these labels will prohibit the use of some neonicotinoid pesticide products where bees are present. That’s right, they’re claiming that a label will be enough keep factory farms from spraying these common pesticides near bees.
First, they‘re making a big assumption that pesticide technicians will even stop to read the label. If you’d been using the same product in the same way for years, do you think you’d stop to read the new, very tiny print on the label? No.
Second, they‘re making the even bigger assumption that those using pesticides give a hoot about what it may or may not do to bees. Factory farms make their money by producing a huge volume of product. That means everything about the planting, fertilizing, watering and harvesting needs to happen exactly on schedule. What are the chances that, on the day of a scheduled pesticide application, they’re going to stop everything to figure out whether the wind is going to carry the poison to a bee population? Then, if it’s determined that pesticide drift is likely, what are the chances they will suspend the treatment schedule in hopes of a better day? I’d say slim to none.
This label is an insult to the bees and those working to protect them. It is meant to be a diversion, to make it look like the EPA is doing something to crack down on neonicotinoid pesticide use, when in fact it approved another bee-killing pesticide for commercial use just a few months ago.
Rather than do its job, and remove these toxic chemicals from the shelves, the EPA is buckling under pressure from the pesticide industry. While it drags its feet conducting yet another set of “studies,” bees are dropping dead 50,000 at a time. If we lose to many more of these essential pollinators, our food system will begin to suffer irreparable damages; damages that will force food prices to the sky and deny our children many of the fruits and vegetables we grew up loving.
Where’s the friendly warning label for that?
Image via Thinkstock
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