by Don Teague
Correspondent, NBC News
Tom Theobald’s Reply
While mites have been a major loss factor for American beekeepers, this is only part of the story. We’ve known this crisis was coming for nearly 20 years and yet little has been done to prepare for or prevent it.
Researchers have done their best, but funds have been very limited. In fact this administration tried to close many of the bee research facilities at a time when they were needed most.
Hundreds of thousands of colonies of bees and millions of dollars in property have been lost to illlegal use of pesticides nationwide and the EPA has fiddled while Rome burned, fully aware of the losses but unwilling to do anything. The EPA has delegated authority for enforcement of pesticide regulation to states and has then failed to hold them to any resonable standards. These state departments of agriculture in turn have have been openly hostile to beekeepers seeking protection from the misuse of pesticides, and again the EPA has stood by and done nothing in the face of repeated violations of Federal Label Laws.
We had 5 to 6 million managed colonies of bees in America in 1950. Today we have fewer than 2 million, with the steepest decline in the past 15 years. States such as Colorado, Nebraska, Washington and others lost over 50 percent of their bees between 1990 and 2000, with huge pesticide losses. States did everything they could to explain away these losses and sweep them under the rug. The EPA fiddled.
We have been courting this disaster for years and American beekeepers have attempted to sound the alarm, but to no avail. Now the chickens have come home to roost. The mites are just the final blow to an industry already weakened by institutional indifference. If we solve the mite problem and fail to correct the systemic problems, this industry is still dead and Americans may get very hungry.
There is so much talk about homeland security, what could be more important than the protection of our most fundamental need, food? And yet these bureaucrats and politicians have knowingly failed to protect our food system. Instead their inaction, indifference, hostility and incompetence has brought us all to the brink of disaster.
Serious changes must come and some heads should roll. We can’t go on the way we have.
Let’s see some serious investigative reporting of the whole problem. Let’s see some Congressional Hearings to get to the bottom of this whole inexcusable mess.
– Tom Theobald
President, Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association