The European Union has decided to ban pesticides that have been linked to bee deaths, although not all 27 countries are in agreement.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? This is a deadly bee blight caused by a toxic mix of pesticides, fungicides and invasive species, and it’s responsible for the demise of over a third of commercial colonies annually since 2006.
Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to be the chief cause of CCD, and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.
Of the 27 member countries in the EU, 15 voted in favor of a ban, which isn’t enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules, the Commission will now have the option to impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids, which they plan to do no later than December 1, 2013.
Eight countries, including the U.K., voted against the ban, and another four abstained, but they will all be subject to the moratorium.
As Care2′s Beth Buczynski writes here, the U.S. goes along with those twelve European countries, stating that there is not enough evidence that these insecticides are killing bees. With the Environmental Protection Agency unwilling to take any action to protect bees, four beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups have filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the agency for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides.
If you think this has nothing to do with you, think again. Wild species such as honey bees are said by researchers to be responsible for pollinating around one-third of the world’s crop production.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains:
“Do I like my food?” is probably the question you want to ask yourself when considering the honeybee. If you do, you have a stake in their survival. Without pollinators, humans would be eating grain 24/7. So the honeybee crisis is one important piece of the larger food crisis that NRDC and other groups are working on. It’s critical that we end the use of all bee toxins in order to ensure long-term bee survival.
What Are Neonicotinids?
From the BBC:
• Nicotine is not just lethal to humans in the form of cigarettes, but the chemical is also extremely toxic to insects
• Neonicotinoid pesticides are new nicotine-like chemicals and act on the nervous systems of insects, with a lower threat to mammals and the environment than many older sprays
• Pesticides made in this way are water soluble, which means they can be applied to the soil and taken up by the whole plant – they are called “systemic,” meaning they turn the plant itself into a poison factory, with toxins coming from roots, leaves, stems and pollen
• Neonicotinoids are often applied as seed treatments, which means coating the seeds before planting.
Chemical companies and the manufacturers of pesticides argue that the evidence is not conclusive that these pesticides are to blame for the widespread decline in bee populations. They point to the parasitic varroa mite, viruses that attack bees and neglect of hives as equally important causes of the decline.
But in the end, even if there are many factors involved, the removal of these chemicals is the best way of testing exactly why bees are disappearing so fast. It should be that manufacturers have to prove that their products are safe, not the other way around.
Bees are not just a luxury or something to make conservationists happy. Without bee pollination many crops would fail. Loss of bees will be far more expensive than banning these pesticides until we know they are responsible.
Thank you to the almost 17,000 Care2 members who urged the EU to pass this ban!
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