Bee Poisoning - Pesticide Companies Must Be Held To Account

"Pesticide firms must be held to account for bee poisoning" was the title of a recent blog post in The Guardian newspaper, written by Alison Benjamin.

"There is an overwhelming body of evidence pointing the finger at the sub-lethal impact of pesticides on bees" - it continues.

During a three day public tribunal organised by Pesticide Action Network (the Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT)), cases are being brought against the big six pesticide companies; Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont, which control 74% of the global pesticide market. You can read more

here (opens new window). (The trial is about more than bee poisoning incidents, it is also about general crimes against humanity, such as the disaster in Bhopal, India).

Alison concludes the blog: "My opinion, and that of others, is that there is an overwhelming body of evidence pointing the finger at the sub-lethal impact of pesticides on bees, isn't it time that their creators were held to account?"


While we are on the subject of bee poisoning, let's just go over a few misunderstandings and inadequacies regarding our regulatory system:


1. Bee poisoning incidents - where are they actually adequately monitored and reported? It seems to me that any sincere effort to do anything meaningful in the area of government body monitoring, is lacking. You can read more about the UK scenario on my page:

Honey Bee Pesticide Poisoning Incidents (opens a new window), where you will see that honey bee poisoning incidents are not properly monitored by the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme that is meant to capture them (and I wonder if the equipment to test for such incidents would be sufficiently sensitive anyway).

In the USA, Tom Theobald quotes similar frustrations with regard to bee poisoning events, and enforcement of correct application by farmers (which in any event, ignores issues such as toxic build up, but anyway....):

    "...let’s talk about foliar treatments and the bee hazard statements since they bring the subject up. Enforcement is a sham, an illusion, there is little or no enforcement. Right here in Boulder County we had a spray incident with a non-systemic pesticide, (one of the foliar treatments they are talking about) in 2008 where we took our own samples and the pesticide level was several hundred times the LD50 for honeybees. The EPA is responsible for enforcement, but delegates that authority to the states. It took 5 weeks of constant prodding before the state would come up and take samples and even then the pesticide level was still several times the LD50. The outcome? The applicator was given a slap on the wrist, a $400 fine with no admission of guilt and still complained about it. How many thousands or tens of thousands of dollars were lost by surrounding beekeepers and what damage was done to the environment by this outrageous level of overspraying? It happens all the time and is seldom challenged, and when it is, it gets the same evasion, doublespeak and non-performance you see in this letter. Enforcement? Hardly. And what purpose does the bee hazard warning on labels serve with systemic pesticides. Are we expected to remove our bees from the area for the next 100 years?"



(Note: with the last comment, Tom is referring to the fact that neonicotinoid pesticides like Clothianidin remain in the soil for many years without degrading, and indeed, they can build up with successive applications!).

2. Where do the regulatory procedures adequately take account of pesticide build up, toxic soup effects, plus mobility of the chemicals in soil and water? I can't find any regulatory (authorising) body or monitoring system which does this with any integrity if at all. And so the idea that pesticides are assessed for 'acceptable risk' to the environment prior to marketing authorisations being granted, is an appalling joke.

3. Where does the regulatory system allow for public scrutiny prior to marketing authorisations being granted?

4. Where are the adequate testing procedures for sub-lethal effects of pesticides on bees (i.e. effects that may not immediately kill, but due to impairment of functioning, usually cause harm and death)?

Here is one example of what to me, seems like gross negligence on the part of the regulatory bodies (they cannot plead ignorance in the UK - the issue has been raised with them repeatedly, and they have ignored it):

Bayer Cropscience market a termite killer, whose active ingredient is the neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid. In their marketing literature, they outline how the termite is killed by this product via a range of sub-lethal and behavioural effects that ultimately in time, impairs the whole colony, resulting in its demise. "Aah, but termites and bees are different" say some - so read this page for further information. It seems to me to be negligent of our regulatory bodies to ignore this information - which has certainly been pointed out to them!

Then there is the question of whether neonicotinoids make honey bees more susceptible to Varroa.

I wonder......when public servant, Helen Thompson of FERA was investigating "The relevance of sublethal effects in honey bee testing for pesticide risk assessment", and when she worked with Christian Maus of Bayer Cropscience to produce this "paper", did they discuss the Bayer termite killer, and any possible implication for bees? I have put this question to Lord Henley the government minister responsible at the time - the question has thus far been ignored.

You can read more about honey bee poisoning incidents here.









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