Bees and the Clothianidin scandal

Beekeepers and environmentalists are demanding the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remove the pesticide Clothianidin (aka Poncho) from sale. The pesticide has already been banned in Europe and has been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

A leaked EPA memo identifies a core study underpinning the registration of the insecticide clothianidin as unsound – and it’s claimed the EPA has known about this since 2003. 

The groups calling for the ban believe the initial field study guidelines were insufficiently rigorous to test whether or not clothianidin contributes to CCD. The failings weren’t small oversights – the field test evaluated the wrong crops, over an insufficient time period and with inadequate controls according to the claims. 

Clothianidin, a Neonicotinoid, has been used extensively on seed. The pesticide is taken up by the plant as it grows and then expressed in pollen, nectar and gutation (water expelled from a plant at night) droplets. 

A ban will somewhat be shutting the gate after the horse has bolted as Clothianidin has been widely used on the USA’s major crops for eight years already. Unfortunately, the stuff has a half-life of up to 19 years in heavy soils, and over a year in light soils. Given the cumulative effect over 8 years, even if a ban was immediate; the pesticide could wreak havoc for some time to come.

Tom Theobald, beekeeper of 35 years, says the Clothianidin case is by no means isolated and that of 94 pesticide active ingredients released since 1997, 70% have been given conditional registrations, with unanswered questions of unknown magnitude.

I never really understood how important bees were until I started this site. Where once upon a time I would see a bee and think little of it, every bee sighting now is accompanied by a sense of awe and respect. 

Bees don’t just make honey – they are responsible for pollinating as much as 30% of the U.S. food supply. Colony Collapse Disorder poses a huge threat. Imagine if 1 in 3 pigs started to die under mysterious circumstances – it would be front page headline news. This has been happening with CCD some years, yet it still doesn’t appear to be getting the attention it deserves. 

The issue of Clothianidin also begs the bigger question – who can we trust to do the right thing by the environment? Why does so much environmental action seem to address issues rather than prevent them? 

If we can’t trust government to protect us and our planet, if we can’t trust corporations to do the right thing – then it’s likely game over… the only hope we have is for we, the “unwashed masses”, to apply pressure; and that means a massive amount of awareness-raising needs to be done to let people know how bad things are; and not a lot of time to do it in. It makes it harder when so many folks are struggling just to pay the rent and put food on the table – who can blame them for not having the time to dig into environmental issues?

At the risk of sounding paranoid – trust no-one, question everything. Another sad lesson I’ve learned since starting Green Living Tips is that nothing, and I mean nothing, is as it seems. We’re all now caught up in our own web of greed, lies and deceit.

You can read more about the Clothianidin scandal here and Grist also has a very interesting study of the events leading up to the leaked memo.


Bees and your food