[permaculture] Bee decline overshadows Endangered Species Act's 40th anniversary | Al Jazeera America
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Sun Dec 29 23:42:38 EST 2013
Bee decline overshadows Endangered Species Act's 40th anniversary
by Renee Lewis <http://america.aljazeera.com/profiles/l/renee-lewis.html>
28, 2013 9:15PM ET
Beekeeping and environmental groups have sued the EPA over registering a
new pesticide linked to bee deaths
This Nov. 6, 2011 photo shows a bee colony run by Adam Finkelstein and
Kelly Rausch who are are raising queen bees in Frederick, Md., in attempts
to reverse colony collapse disorder.Linda Davidson/AP
Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act being
signed into law; the occasion, however, is being eclipsed by criticisms
about whether government agencies are doing enough to protect some species
– bees, especially.
A lawsuit, the first to invoke the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in defense
of bees, was filed in March by major U.S. beekeeping associations against
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to register a
new pesticide called sulfoxaflor.
Sulfoxaflor is a new chemical in the same category as controversial
pesticides known as neonicotinoids – which scientific studies have shown
contribute to mass bee deaths. Several neonicotinoids have been
the European Union.
The Pollinator Stewardship Council, American Honey Producers Association,
National Honey Bee Advisory Board and the American Beekeeping Federation
are among the groups that aim to challenge the EPA's decision in federal
On Dec. 13, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a national nonprofit public
interest and environmental advocacy organization, filed a legal
support of the lawsuit.
The disturbing trend of bee deaths, known as Colony Collapse Disorder
(CCD), has led to mass die-offs of pollinators in recent years and could
cause an agricultural disaster.
Without pollinators, many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, cucumbers,
broccoli, onions and almonds, will also
"Our country is facing widespread bee colony collapse, and scientists are
pointing to pesticides like sulfoxaflor as the cause," Attorney Janette
Brimmer of Earthjustice, the public interest law organization representing
the groups, said in a press
"The effects will be devastating to our nation's food supply and also to
the beekeeping industry, which is struggling because of toxic pesticides."
Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, recognizing that
America's natural heritage is of "esthetic, ecological, educational,
recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people." It added
that many native plants and animals were in danger of becoming extinct.
As CFS explained in its legal brief, scientists have linked the drastic
declines in honey bees and other pollinators to neonicotinoids, like
sulfoxaflor, which the EPA has determined to be "very highly toxic" to
One-third of US bees vanished
Conservationalists worry that the introduction of yet another highly toxic
pesticide into the environment will exacerbate the "ecological crisis" that
The EPA said in a May 6 press
it registered sulfoxaflor for public use that the chemical was safe
when "used in accordance with the labeling terms and restrictions." The
release specifically mentions concerns over pollinators in the release, and
argues that "the final label includes robust terms for protecting
But there is evidence that neonicotinoids are harmful to pollinators even
when "used as directed" – such as the largest mass bumblebee die-off ever
recorded, which took place this summer in Oregon.
Some 50,000 bees were found
a suburban shopping center parking lot in mid-June in Wilsonville, Ore. The
cause of death was determined to be a pesticide called Safari, the primary
ingredient of which is dinetofuran – a compound in the same class as
neonicotinoids, like sulfoxaflor.
About a month later, 37 million bees were found
Ontario. One local beekeeper, who lost 600 hives, blamed the heavy use
of neonicotinoids on nearby fields where corn had recently been planted.
On Aug. 1, the EPA announced new neonicotinoid labeling requirements that
are due to appear on products in 2014. The agency said it is in the process
of reviewing several neonicotinoid registrations, which will be completed
But beekeepers say the products shouldn't be sold until research is
completed. Other scientific research has linked pesticides to CCD,
including a March 2012
Another scientific study published in July in Plos
international, peer-reviewed, online publication, said pesticide exposure
and pathogens likely interact to contribute to CCD.
Nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the U.S. have vanished, the
National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has said. In some areas of the
country, more than 50
bees have disappeared.
There are dozens of neonicotinoid pesticide products, and they are used
on approximately 75 percent of all acres planted with food crops
–commercial and residential – in the U.S., and on 95 percent of all U.S.
The NRDC links bee deaths to pesticide exposure and adds that the USDA has
so far failed to aggressively seek out a solution. Without bees to
pollinate many fruits and vegetables, the U.S. could lose $15 billion worth
of crops and cause major food shortages, the NRDC
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