Corporatism — August 16, 2013 at 7:07 am

Congressman Conyers & Blumenauer introduce bill to ban bee-killing insecticides, Koch brothers group says “nothing to see here”


Of course a corporate front group wants to stop this…

When I was in grade school, you couldn’t run barefoot through a grassy field full of clover because there were so many honeybees that you were sure to be stung. Now, 40 years later, there are no wild honeybees left in America. Why? Neonicotinoid insecticides used to control aphids and other harmful insects. Recently, application of neonicotinoid-based insecticide Safari to ornamental trees in Wilsonville, Oregon resulted in the death of at least 50,000 honeybees leading the state to temporarily ban the product.

The impact of the collapse of our honeybee population can hardly be overestimated which is why Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon have introduced the “Protect America’s Pollinators Act of 2013“.

Here are some sobering facts from bill:

  • Pollination services are a vital part of agricultural production, valued at over $125,000,000,000 globally and worth $20,000,000,000 to $30,000,000,000 in agricultural production annually in the United States.
  • One-third of food produced in North America depends on pollination by honey bees, including nearly 95 varieties of fruits such as almonds, avocados, cranberries, and apples.
  • Over the past several years, documented incidents of colony collapse disorder have been at a record high, with some beekeepers repeatedly losing 100 percent of their operations.
  • During the winter beginning in 2012 and ending in 2013, United States beekeepers, on average, lost 45.1 percent of the colonies they operate.
  • According to scientists of the Department of Agriculture, current estimates of the survivorship of honey bee colonies show they are too low to be able to meet the pollination demands of United States agricultural crops.
  • Neonicotinoids cause sublethal effects including impaired foraging and feeding behavior, disorientation, weakened immunity, delayed larval development, and increased susceptibility to viruses, diseases, and parasites and numerous studies have also demonstrated acute, lethal effects from the application of neonicotinoid insecticides.
  • Recent science has demonstrated that a single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid is toxic enough to kill a songbird.
  • In January 2013, the European Food Safety Authority determined that the most widely used neonicotinoids pose unacceptable hazards to bees, prompting the European Union to suspend their use on agricultural crops.

Pesticides like neonicotinoid insecticides are reviewed every 15 years by the EPA on a scheduled basis to ensure that new data is used to make good policy decisions. However, according a fact sheet put out by Congressman Blumenauer (pdf), neonicotinoid-based pesticides aren’t up for review until 2018. That is why he and Congressman Conyers are acting now to help save honeybees in this country.

Congressman Blumenauer describes the bill this way:

The Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013 directs the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend use of the most bee-toxic neonicotinoids for use in seed treatment, soil application, or foliar treatment on bee attractive plants within 180 days, and to review these neonicotinoids and make a new determination about their pro per application and safe use. EPA is required to take all peer reviewed data into account when reviewing the use of these neonicotinoids, and to specifically account for any potential impact on
the health and viability of pollinator populations.

Given the recent bee dieoffs in Hillsboro, Oregon and Wilsonville, Oregon and disturbing preliminary research on the impact of these pesticides, it is clear that they must be evaluated to ensure that their use does not pose an immediate threat to bee populations and the long-term viability of our farms.

Until those determinations are made, we cannot risk the potential of putting our farms, food, and families in danger. The Save America’s Pollinators Act also instructs the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, to issue a report on the native bee populations in the United States, any decline in the population levels, and any potential causes of such decline.

Thankfully, nobody is fighting this because it’s so patently clear that our country’s food supply and even our economy are tied directly to the health of our bee population.

Oh, wait. Turns out there IS a group fighting it. Who? A Koch brothers-funded corporatist front group called the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). PERC also receives money from ExxonMobil and other corporate sponsors to help spread misinformation like this article titled “Everyone calm down, there is no ‘bee-pocalypse'” which uses trend data starting six years after neonicotinoid-based insecticides were introduced to “prove” they are safe. They are, apparently, unbothered by the fact that we lose a full third of our honeybee colonies every year due to the use of these pesticides.

Be wary of any group using the phrase “free market” to describe themselves. In this case, PERC says they are free market environmentalists “dedicated to improving environmental quality through property rights and markets”. In other words, we’re supposed to rely on the very profit-driven corporations that manufacture the bee-killing pesticides to regulate themselves and take their own products off the market if they are found to be harmful. The absurdity of such a fox-guarding-the-hen-house approach is patently obvious to anyone with a brain.

Kudos to Congressman Conyers and Blumenauer. I hope the corporatists don’t win on this one for the sake of our future.

[CC photo credit: Dakiny | Flickr]