Groups ask US to bar pesticide linked to bee-colony collapse

21 March 2012 19:20  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--A group of beekeepers and environmentalists on Wednesday asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately bar the sale and use of the pesticide clothianidin, charging that it is the cause of a massive die-off of bees.

The Center for Food Safety and Beyond Pesticides along with more than 20 beekeepers from across the US filed an emergency petition with the EPA, asking that the agency immediately suspend its authorisation for the sale and use of the pesticide, which is widely used on US corn crops.

Jay Feldman, spokesman for Beyond Pesticides, said that clothianidin “is directly linked to colony collapse disorder”, and that the EPA has failed to conduct required field tests of the pesticide’s impact on bee colonies.

The petition filed on Wednesday demands that the EPA suspend use of clothianidin until the required field tests are conducted and the results are known.

Colony-collapse disorder (CCD) is an epidemic characterised by a sudden disappearance of a colony’s bees with few, if any, dead bees left behind. For some unknown reason, a colony’s bees will fly off and never return.

Although the disorder may have been building for several years, it first came to crisis-level attention after the 2006-2007 North American winter season, when 32% of the nation’s cultivated bee colonies disappeared.

Feldman and the petition his group filed with the EPA contend that multiple scientific studies have traced the 2006 onset of disorder to the EPA-approved introduction of clothianidin in 2003.

Since its onset in 2006-2007, colony collapse disorder has been blamed for an annual loss of about 30% of the US bee population.

That rate of year-by-year loss is not sustainable, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the continuing impact of the disorder puts a major part of US agriculture at risk.

ARS officials say that about one-third of the US diet – including most fruits, vegetables and vine crops – depend on bee pollination. Major food staple crops, such as corn, wheat and rice, are wind pollinated and have not been affected by the disorder.

The petition contends that the wind-borne spread of clothianidin from corn crops has migrated to foods that require pollination and that the pesticide has been absorbed by bees, causing them to lose their navigation abilities.

ARS spokeswoman Kim Kaplan said that a special USDA team that has been investigating the disorder over the last four years has yet to find specific scientific evidence of what is causing the bee epidemic.

However, Kaplan said that the ARS cannot rule out pesticides as a contributing factor to colony-collapse disorder.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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