Niagara Gazette

Columns

May 14, 2013

CONFER: U.S. slow to address honey bee deaths

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Other countries are taking steps to combat this scourge. In Canada, Ontario officials have encouraged farmers to inform beekeepers when they are planting, because the dust associated with planting can carry neonicotinoids to wildflowers in adjoining hedgerows as well as lawns and pastures even a few miles away. This would allow the beekeepers to move their stock to another area when planting is underway. But, it does nothing to address the longer-termed problems associated with pollination once the plants grow.

A more powerful means of suppression is taking place in the European Union. Starting Dec. 1, and lasting through 2014 and 2015, the use of three specific types of neonicotinoids will be totally banned in the EU. This two-year moratorium will see a return to 20th century insecticides and a likely resurgence in honey bee populations.

Germany and the United Kingdom passed on the ban and will allow for the continued use of the offending compounds. That’s not any different than what is happing here in the US. Even though federal studies link neonicotinoids to colony collapse, including a report released by the USDA and EPA earlier this month, the government has no immediate plans to limit or ban the use of neonicotinoids — a major study on the impact of neonicotinoids won’t be made available from the EPA until 2018.

2018 could likely be too late, especially if a ban is determined to be necessary; that in itself could take a few more years. American farmers (especially fruit growers whose trees need more help from bees than field crops do) — and those who consume their produce — need answers and actions now. If bees were wiped out, or something close to it, fruits and vegetables wouldn’t get the pollination they need.

Estimates show that the total loss of crops would approach $15 billion per year.

Neonicotinoids are certainly proving to be a bane to the health of the environment, the economy, and the people.

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at TheNewAmerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer

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