Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Bayer's Pesticide Killing Bees?

Some background: The USDA claims that bees pollinate $15 billion worth of US crops; that one in three mouthfuls in the typical American diet has a connection to bee pollination.

In his recent column for Gourmet magazine, Barry Estabrook (who I still can't believe Gourmet is allowing to write for their magazine, but I'll read his every word until they receive enough complaints and pull him) (Then again, Gourmet did publish David Foster Wallace's article on the ethics of lobster cooking, where he asked, "Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?") shed some light on the disease killing bees - in droves - across the US and Europe. It's being called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

German beekeepers suspect one of Bayer's best-selling pesticides, clothianidin, is killing the bees.
A German prosecutor is investigating [top executives at] Bayer CropScience, after critics alleged that they knowingly polluted the environment.

"We're suspecting that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants." said Harro Schultze (attorney for the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers). 1

The pesticide is a known nerve toxin to bees. France conducted their own studies years ago and won't approve it, or its cousins. Germany just suspended sales of the chemical after "a state-run crop research institute in Germany collected samples of dead honeybees and determined that clothianidin caused the deaths." 1

What's going on in the US? The EPA "approved the pesticide in 2003 under the condition that Bayer submit additional data." 1 They didn't have to submit the data before approval? What a deal.

Since then, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a request to the EPA, under the Freedom of Information Act, concerning the pesticide's toxicity. The EPA failed to respond.2

On August 18, 2008, the NRDC sued the EPA for this information.2

The EPA is an acronym for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wait, this gets more insane. Congress gave the USDA $20 million to get to the bottom of CCD. So we have one branch of government, the EPA, withholding information that could resolve the crisis, while another branch, the USDA, gets funded, via our tax dollars, to find out what the EPA knows but isn't telling.

And even more insane. "In recent Congressional hearings, the USDA was unable to account for the $20 million."2

The USDA says that worsening bee die-off is contributing to the increase in food prices. So we, as taxpayers, are paying twice for this nefariousness. Once at the food market, and again in our taxes.

In the meantime, truckloads of clothianidin and its kind are being delivered and dispersed on crops like there's no tomorrow.
1 Bayer On Defensive In Bee Deaths, The News&Observer, August 26, 2008.
2 EPA Buzz Kill: Is The Agency Hiding Colony Collapse Disorder Information? NRDC Forced To Sue To Get Public Records On Bee Mystery, NRDC Press release, August 18, 2008.

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