USDA to bees: Drop dead

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking no steps to halt or even thoroughly study the use of pesticides that have been implicated in massive die-offs of honeybees, according to a press release from the Sierra Club. The release circulated on the Iowa Sierra Club e-mail loop yesterday.

Germany has suspended the use of neonicotinoid pesticides after agricultural research found that “poisoning of the bees is due to the rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin from corn seeds.”

Not only do many American farmers spray neonicotinoids on their crops, “Bayer and Monsanto have acquired patents to coat their proprietary corn seeds with these neonicotinoids,” the Sierra Club notes. The group has called on the USDA to impose “a precautionary moratorium on these powerful crop treatments to protect our bees and our food,” pending thorough studies of their effects.

This New York Times article from February 2007 discusses the threat that “colony collapse disorder” poses to approximately $14 billion worth of seeds and crops that honeybees pollinate in the U.S. every year.

Other articles discussing the possible link between pesticides and bee die-offs are here, here and here. The neonicotinoids may be affecting the bees’ memory, making them unable to find their way back to their hives.

The full text of the press release from Sierra Club is after the jump.

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:  Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club

216-371-9779

U.S.D.A. caves into lobbyists over massive bee deaths while Germany takes a major step to keep their pollinators pollinating crops

In light of the mounting evidence that new seed chemical coatings are deadly to bees and the action of Germany to call for an immediate suspension of these seed treatments, the Sierra Club today reaffirmed its call for a U.S. moratorium on specific chemical treatments to protect our bees and crops, until more study can be done.

Recently Germany’s federal agricultural research institute noted, “It can unequivocally be concluded that poisoning of the bees is due to the rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin from corn seeds.”

At issue are the neonicotinoids, including clothianidin, being used in a new way –  as seed coatings.

For years, farmers have been spraying neonicotinoids onto their crops to stop insect infestation. Now Bayer and Monsanto have acquired patents to coat their proprietary corn seeds with these neonicotinoids.

Part of the equation in the U.S. is genetically engineered corn, as more and more corn seeds are being gene spliced with a completely different species – a bacteria,”  said Walter Haefeker, of the German Beekeepers Association Board of  Directors. “Bayer and Monsanto recently entered into agreements to manufacture neonicotinic-coated genetically engineered corn. It’s likely that this will worsen the bee die-off problem.”

David Hackenburg, former president of the American Beekeeping Federation, has been urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do more study. “Look at what’s time based. The massive bee decimation started when regulatory agencies rubber stamped the use of neonicotinoid spraying and coating,” he said.

Sierra Club joins the concern of beekeepers,” said Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee Chair. “It’s unfortunate that regulatory agencies are using double speak. They claim to protect our food supply – yet they aren’t doing the proper studies. The loss of honeybees will leave a huge void in the kitchens of the American people and an estimated loss of 14 billion dollars to farmers.  We expect the U.S.D.A. to do their job.  We call for a precautionary moratorium on these powerful crop treatments to protect our bees and our food.

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