Friday, June 6, 2008

Bee's, Bayer and Blame - Is Big Business Killing the Largest Labor Force on the Planet ?

--trends + business + politics--

Just a few weeks back Germany suspended the approval of eight toxic pesticides believed to be responsible for the massive decline in bee populations - those same critters that are responsible for pollinating over 130 crops. Bees are our best laborers; free, self motivated and able to handle multiple projects, they are that dream team all business' crave. In addition, bee's are huge money makers. What does the labor force equate to financially ? Well consider that bee's contribute to over $15 billion in annual crop sales in the U.S alone. Not bad eh'?

Now industries are growing concerned alongside environmentalists, as populations are facing massive decline - ranging from 25% in Germany to 70% in the United States. The self sustaining labor force is facing a mass genocide - and now, big business is waking up and taking note. Many are still seeing (or at least claiming to) the crises as a great mystery, while others (including several European nations) are pointing fingers at highly toxic pesticides - specifically pointing out imidacloprid and clothianidin.

Two weeks ago, the German Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety outright suspended the approval of 8 toxic insecticides, including imidacloprid and clothianidin (which they believe are responsible in the significant drop in bee populations). French beekeepers claim that imidacloprid, as a seed treatment for sunflowers, has killed many bees and caused a significant drop in honey production. Some requested that systemic insecticide use be withdrawn from crops where bees might be affected, while others called for a complete ban on its use. Anecdotal evidence of pesticide-related bee deaths in Italy and Holland is also piling up. The swell of animosity from European beekeepers is growing - most of whom accuse scientists and government agencies of being "in the pocket" of the chemical companies. But the bee problem is not just a European and American crises - its worldwide.

Just today, Reuters released a report on the epidemic in India that said, "Wild honey collection in the Kutch region of Gujarat has fallen to 50 tonnes from 300 tonnes last year because of the disappearance of honey bees. The yield of certain native crops like date palms, lemon, papaya and kesar mangoes have also halved. Air pollution and the felling of a local bush variety is responsible for the diminishing bee population in the region." So who you may wonder is producing this deadly brew?

The majority of the pesticides held responsible for the bee demise are produced by none other than Bayer Company (yes, the aspirin maker). The toxic pesticides pulled by Germany are largely manufactured by Bayer. But Germany is not the first to make such a move. Back in 1999, France banned the use of imidacloprid, and rejected an application from Bayer for clothianidin this year. What does this business amount to for the corporate giant ? For Bayer, imidacloprid and clothianidin account for $1.25 billion in global annual sales.

These chemicals are used in everything from seed treatment on rice, maize, veggies, fruit and cotton, but also on turf, building (termite control) and even your pets (flea control). In addition, under the new Bayer Climate Program launched last year Bayer looks like to benefit from the booming Bio Fuel industry (wrought in its own controversy as being intricately linked to the current global food shortage) by producing "crop protection products" for the major energy crops sugar cane, corn and wheat, all used to produce bioethanol and oilseed crops such as canola and soybeans which are used to produce biodiesel." My guess is , these crop production products include imidacloprid and clothianidin. The EPA has acknowledged as early as 2003 that imidacloprid and clothianidin is in fact "highly toxic to bees." But environmentalists and scientists have long known that imidacloprid is also toxic in other capacities including;

  • It is also acutely toxic to earthworms...
  • Imidacloprid has raised concerns because it causes eggshell thinning in endangered bird is highly toxic to sparrows, quails, canaries, and pigeons...
  • Imidacloprid can be toxic to humans, causing epileptic seizures, diarrhea, and lack of coordination...
  • Imidacloprid is extremely toxic at low concentrations to some species of aquatic fish and crustaceans...

So you are probably wondering what kind of monitoring is actually taking place for these pesticides to protect you, and your family. Well, some unfortunate news, neither the United States Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration includes imidacloprid in their food monitoring programs. So - we can only hope that we won't fall to the same plight as our fuzzy little pollinating friends. Pretty reassuring.

As bee populations continue to drop to the horror of not only environmentalists, but also agriculturalists - the debate rages on. Can bee's be dying of some unknown virus ? Are they overworked ? The theories are endless. For many the answer is quite clear - toxic pesticides are threatening the population of bees AND humans. The toxic price of big business is not only polluting our planet, but killing entire species.

To take action in the U.S, you can contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and ask them to tell EPA to protect the pollinators and suspend the use of imidacloprid and clothianidin-containing chemicals until good data is available that proves they are not contributing to the die-off of bee populations. Tell them we cannot afford to wait!

*Note: ( The full list of suspended products in Germany is: Antarc (ingredient: imidacloprid; produced by Bayer), Chinook (imidacloprid; Bayer), Cruiser (thiamethoxam; Syngenta), Eladoclothianidin; Bayer), Faibel (imidacloprid; Bayer), Mesurol (methiocarb; Bayer) and Poncho (clothianidin; Bayer).

(Source: Reuters, Beyond Pesticides, Science Daily, The Independent)

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