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Cause of World Honeybee Kill Revealed - It Was All For Money

By James Donahue

A shocking report by Grist reporter Tim Philpott has revealed the undisclosed decision by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency operating under the Bush Administration in 2003 to approve the sale of clothianidin, a newly produced pesticide by the German agrichemical producer Bayer for treatment of the food seed stock.

Conditional approval for marketing the pesticide was granted early in 2003, and final approval was given in 2005 after Bayer conducted its own tests and determined that the poison had no significant effect on honey bees. The chemical also gained approval for treatment of canola in Canada and some countries in Europe. It currently is being used with soy, sugar beets, sunflowers and wheat, and Bayer has petitioned the EPA for permission to use it with cotton and mustard seed, the Philpott story said.

It was in 2003 that the mystery die-off of honey bees began. Bee keepers in various parts of the United States, Canada and Europe began reporting the loss of entire hives of bees. This problem got worse with each passing year. Some blame was given to a mite that attacks bees, but even with treatment for this problem, the bees continued to die. There has been concern that if the problem continued, the world honey bee population would go extinct.

The loss of the bees was having an effect on fruit and vegetable crops that depend upon bee pollination for a successful harvest and on the production of honey.

The Philpott report, based on a leaked EPA internal memo that got into the hands of Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, revealed that the agency ignored warnings by its own scientists about clothianidin. Based on the company’s assurances that the pesticide would not harm honey bees, the agency approved Bayer’s application to sell it on the agricultural market. The company has since made millions on sales of the product. Sales in 2009 alone were estimated at $26.2 million.

How could an agency like the EPA, created to protect the environment and act as a watchdog over industrial and agricultural practices, let a toxin like clothianidin slip through their X-ray? It was no secret that President George W. Bush was no friend to the Mother Earth during his eight years in office. He and the people he appointed to run his administration were friendly to business interests. Bush issued executive orders early in his administration that stripped the EPA of much of its power. Thus it should be no surprise that the EPA, under the direction of Bush Appointee Michael Leavitt in 2003, and then a second appointee Stephen Johnson in 2005, ignored warnings by its own scientists and approved the wide-scale use of a toxic pesticide that, as Philpott expressed it: “threatened monumental harm to our food system by wiping out its key pollinators.”

Philpott said the EPA did ask Bayer to conduct a “chronic life cycle study” by exposing hives of bees to the toxin and determine its effect. Already actively marketing clothianidin via seed producers, Bayer stalled on the study until 2007 at which time it filed a report. The EPA did not make the report public but declared it “scientifically sound” and that it “satisfies the guideline requirement for a field toxicity test with honeybees.”

Philpott wrote that the Natural Resources Defense Council had to go to court to secure a copy of the Bayer report from the EPA. What was learned was that the tests, conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada, were rigged. Bee hives were placed in the center of 2.5-acre fields of treated plants and allowed to roam freely. He said bees forage for up to six miles in search of nectar, so the amount of poison brought back to the test hives was relatively low. The study thus determined that the chemical was having little if any effect on the bees.

Theobald, the beekeeper who researched the issue, was quoted as saying: “Imagine you’re a rancher trying to figure out if a noxious weed is harming your cows. If you plant the weed on two acres and let your cows roam free over 50 acres of lush Montana grass, you’re not going to learn much about that weed.”

Now that President Barack Obama is in office and newly appointed EPA Director Lisa Jackson is on the job, will the agency change the rules and stop Bayer from poisoning crop seeds all over the nation?

Philpott noted that Jackson inherited a mess when she took office and she currently has her hands full regulating greenhouse gases against fierce Republican and industry opposition. But the Bayer issue has not been exposed. Clothianidin has already been approved for use in crops during 2011, but hopefully, the EPA will ban its use on American soil after this.

The story said the governments of Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia have already banned it.

Read about North American bumble bee decline, Huffington Post story, click here

You can read Philpott's in-depth story by clicking here.