Sunday, March 08, 2009
Stand up for the honey bees
I get email from NRDC. I happen to believe we are part of the ecology of the earth, not standing outside of nature and observing it. (I guess that makes me a dirty hippie liberal, and I'm proud to be one.) If you have an open mind and think there is something we can do to correct the wrongs we have wreaked on the natural world, the NDRC is a place to start.
Here is an NDRC e-mail action alert: you can help the honey bees from the comfort of your keyboard. As a nation, we'll have a hard time feeding ourselves without our pollinators. I know, honey bees are not native to North America. They are European imports, but so are many of us. We brought them here for agricultural purposes, and much of our fruit, nuts and vegetables depend on their health. We can't backtrack on the fact that we are here and honey bees are here. But we can be more responsible about how we grow our food supply.
I know as a backsliding Advanced Master Gardener and past state certified pesticide applicator (for educational, not personal, purposes) that a lot of home gardeners use Imidicloprid for various reasons, many not valid reasons. People want easy, immediate cures for whatever problems arise from (many times) inappropriate choices we make in our gardening. But I don't want to get bogged down discussing that here. Let me just say, there are thought processes that should accompany much of gardening that just aren't widely taught or subscribed to, as a function of the gardening-horticulture-agricultural industry. (Who do you think pays for pesticide research? Not any hedge fund managers or dot com millionaires that I know of.)
Commercial use of both honey bees and pesticides is an ancillary issue, but the thought processes on these issues start at home, in our gardens, and in how we talk to other gardeners and widen in in concentric rings to the decision makers.
Now that we have voted for change (was it the wars? the economy? or just the pendulum resetting? I don't know) we have a chance to stop the downward spiral or deregulation and underfunding of key agencies (the David Stockman-Grover Norquist plan to undermine the commons in favor of privatization and a return to a lawless Wild Wild West.)
Perhaps with scientists back in their rightful place in government, we could become responsible for our actions once more, thinking of our legacy. I'm just sayin'...
1. Read that bag of pesticide you are tempted to buy this spring.
and 2. Buy organic. Especially the fruits and vegetables listed below. The people who are changing their business model to offer certified organic produce deserve us to put our money where our mouths are.
Now, back to the honey bees issue...
Tell the EPA to protect honey bees from a toxic pesticide (link)
Bee pollination is responsible for about one-third of the food we eat, helping to produce about $15 billion worth of crops in the United States every year. But honey bee populations are in serious decline, with devastating losses caused by factors such as colony collapse disorder, parasites and pesticide exposure.
Even though the EPA classifies the pesticide imidacloprid as highly toxic to honey bees, it nevertheless approved its use in 1994. France banned several uses of imidacloprid in 1999 over concerns about its effects on bees, but here in the United States imidacloprid is still used heavily on many crops pollinated by honey bees, including broccoli, blueberries, carrots, grapefruit, cucumbers and avocados.
Although the EPA is currently reviewing its approval of imidacloprid as required by the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, the agency's work plan lacks many important details on how it will assess risks to bees. In addition, the EPA has put the review on an unreasonably slow timetable, with a final decision not expected until 2014. In the meantime, high-risk uses of imidacloprid will continue, threatening honey bees as well as other important pollinators.
The EPA is accepting public comments on this phase of the project through March 17th.
What to do
Send a message (link), before the March 17th comment deadline, telling the EPA to protect honey bees and other pollinators from high-risk uses of imidacloprid by strengthening its plans for risk, toxicity and exposure assessments.
Use our sample text or write your own
March 8, 2009
Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0844, Office of Pesticide Programs
Dear Office of Pesticide Programs staff,
I urge the EPA to conduct a thorough registration review of the pesticide imidacloprid that properly assesses risks to honey bees and other pollinators.
The EPA must require the manufacturer to submit multi-generational studies of chronic toxicity looking not only at the impact of imidacloprid exposure on adult bees, but also at its effects on bee brood development and survival. Your agency also must incorporate into its risk assessment information concerning imidacloprid levels in the pollen and nectar of plants that receive systemic imidacloprid treatment as well as in hive materials. This information is needed to determine the extent of bees' exposure to this pesticide.
Finally, I urge the EPA to speed up its schedule for the registration review and cancel any uses of imidacloprid that are found to pose high risks to bees and other pollinators. Our food security depends greatly on pollinators such as honey bees. The EPA therefore should ensure that these beneficial insects are protected from high-risk uses of toxic pesticides.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a nonprofit environmental organization with 1.2 million members and online activists, and a staff of scientists, attorneys and environmental experts. Our mission is to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things.
For more information about NRDC or how to become a member of NRDC, please contact us at:
Natural Resources Defense Council
40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011
212-727-4511 (voice) / 212-727-1773 (fax)