Friday, September 26, 2014

EPA knew pesticides were killing honeybees in the 1970s but punished those who spoke out

EPA
For decades, top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (PEA) were aware that a compound approved for agricultural use in the United States was wiping out the honeybee population, but they chose to ignore the compound's effects in deference to pressure from agri-giant corporations.

Worse, the agency reacted harshly to anyone within the EPA who attempted to bring the issue to light, including through firings, forced reassignments and other actions.

According to a scholarly 2014 study [PDF] compiled by researcher Rosemary Mason, "on behalf of a global network of independent scientists, beekeepers and environmentalists," and published on the website of MIT, "We have found historical and chronological evidence to show that the herbicide glyphosate (or other herbicides that are used as alternatives) is responsible for the transformation of garden escapes into super-weeds (in the UK these are termed 'invasive species')."

Further, Mason and her team noted that glyphosate -- the primary substance found in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide -- was introduced in Europe in 1974 "and became a global best-selling herbicide because the public was told by industry and the regulators that it was 'safe.'"

The results have been disastrous. For one, the heavy use of glyphosate has led to the rise of so-called "superweeds" that are resistant to the herbicide. But there is another compound that was approved by the EPA -- over the objections of scientists -- that has had a devastating effect on the nation's honeybee population: clothianidin, which is used for seed treatment on corn and canola, by Bayer.

'Honeybees are going extinct'

According to this EPA document describing clothianidin [PDF], it "is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis," and "has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen."

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