Welcome to “Tom’s Corner,” a blog about bee decline by Tom Theobald, founding member of the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association. In July 2010 Theobald wrote an article about clothianidin and bees for Bee Culture magazine that ignited a conversation about the connection between systemic pesticides and declining bee populations in the United States. Timeline here:
Dave Goulson is one of the most articulate voices we have on the issues of environmental poisoning with pesticides. Take a few minutes and watch this video interview of Professor Goulson. As important as the bees are, the environmental damage spreads far and wide through the environment beyond the bees.
In part, it is a strong critique of the Obama task force on pollinator losses. The task force sounded like a good idea at first, and it was, but it was derailed either intentionally or through naivete by putting the EPA and the USDA in charge. This is like putting burglars in charge of a task force investigating home break-ins. The task force report almost completely ignored the major player in the monumental bee losses – the neonicotinoid family of pesticides. Why is this? My view is that it was these two agencies that were instrumental in the decisions which led to what may be the most massive poisoning of the environment in the history of humanity, and they want to be darn sure you don’t find that out.
Seed treatment is another topic. Ninety percent of neonic use is as seed treatments, and of that 90% only about 5% actually goes into the plant, the rest goes into the soil and groundwater where it poisons the environment widely and for years. Yet seed treatment goes unrecorded and unregulated because the EPA does not consider it “a pesticide use”, excluding it under the ruse of The Treated Articles Exemption.
The reason farmers must use these products and pay a premium price is because the chemical companies have monopolized the seed business. The farmers buy whatever the corporations choose to sell them, whether they need the neonics or not, and in most cases they don’t This is marketing, not agronomy. The neonicotinoids are billion dollar products for the chemical companies because the billions of dollars in environmental damage they cause go unaccounted for – you and I pat that price in the loss of our common asset, a healthy environment.
Here is an article about a new study conducted by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and covered by Canada’s Globe and Mail that calls into question the effectiveness of neonicotinoid pesticides: Study disputes popular pesticides’ effectiveness.
The new paper, which reviewed more than 200 studies on the topic, found use of the pesticides had little effect on crop yields because, in most cases, the threat to crops from wire worms and other pests was not high enough to justify the expense. Further, the pests quickly developed resistance to the chemicals.
“It doesn’t work now; this is a very important point,” Dr. Bonmatin said by phone from Paris. “The more you use insecticides, the more the pests become resistant.”
Researchers found other methods of pest control are more effective and less harmful to the environment. In addition to crop rotation, these methods include planting pest-resistant crops and the purchase of insurance, which is less expensive than pesticides.
In the United States at least, studies like this one are unlikely to have any effect at all because we don’t have regulators, we have enablers.
The EPA is merely an extension of the pesticide industry and what we are subjected to is marketing, not agronomy. Even if individual farmers choose to forgo neonics and fipronil they would be unable to find untreated seed because the chemical industry has created an unchallenged monopoly in the seed business.
This is the corporate state at work and until that stranglehold is broken, nothing will change.