Thursday, July 7, 2011

EPA Slow to Remove Pesticide Blamed for Honeybee Collapse

Mounting evidence, however, points to the role of a particular class of pesticides. The biggest mystery now is why the EPA refuses to act on those clues.

As far back as 1999, France banned the pesticide imidacloprid after it was implicated in a massive die-off of honeybees there. It's one of a class of pesticides known as 'neonicotinoids,' synthetic poisons that mimic nicotine's ability to fatally disrupt insects' nervous systems.

Instead of coating leaves and stems, the pesticide is applied to seeds so that it infuses every part of a plant, including its nectar and pollen.

Ten years after the French ban, Jeffery Pettis, the leading bee researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, showed that bees fed low levels of imidacloprid in a laboratory were more susceptible to the deadly fungus Nosema ceranae-although he notes that these results have not been duplicated in the field.

Germany, Italy, and Slovenia followed France's lead by banning clothianidin, another neonicotinoid pesticide. (Italy's 2009 clothianidin-free corn planting coincided with its first healthy bee season in 10 years.)

When Bayer CropScience introduced it into the United States in 2003, the EPA approved it on the condition that Bayer study its chronic effects. Clothianidin became widely used, and, coincidentally, many U.S. bee colonies decreased by 30 to 90 percent. Read the entire article.

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