For several years now there has been a dramatic loss of bees in Europe and North America. As many as 50% to 90% of the bee populations have simply vanished. This is a big deal.
Bees are a keystone species – they are vital to the food chain on our planet. An
international study of 115 food crops grown in over 200 countries showed that 75% of crops are pollinated by animals, especially by bees.
Honeybees are the only insects that produce food for humans.At first it was believed that only honeybees were affected, but then bumblebee populations began to decline. The crisis was eventually given a name: Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.
CCD is Not a Disease
There were initially several theories about the cause of CCDE, including Varroa mites, cell phone radiation and a virus similar to AIDS. However, it has now been proven that the bee deaths are actually the result of poisoning from two known pesticides called clothianidin and imidacloprid –manufactured by Bayer.
The trade name for clothianidin is Poncho. The trade names for imidacloprid include Gaucho, Admire, Advantage, Merit, Amigo, Premise, Prothor, and Winner.
Why are They Used?
One of our most important crops is corn. But corn has an enemy called diabrotica vergifera vergifera – also known as the “root worm.” [right] It burrows into the roots of the corn plant and causes the plant to wither and eventually die.
Major infestations can wipe-out entire crops.
As bad as it sounds, the root worm problem can actually be addressed quite easily with the practice of crop rotation. The larvae must feed on corn roots to survive and cannot travel more than 10 to 20 inches if hatched in a field rotated out of corn. However, rotating a field out of corn can result in lower farm profitability if there is less demand for the alternate crop. So in 2003, Bayer Pharmaceutical introduced two pesticides, classified as neonicotinoids, to combat root worms and capitalize on increased farm profits. These pesticides are now two of Bayer’s top agricultural products – even though profits are at the expense of a keystone species.
Corn seed is coated with Bayer’s pesticides by means of an adhesive developed by another industry giant: Monsanto. Despite studies which showed these pesticides are highly toxic to bees, their use was justified with the reasoning that the corn seed to which they were applied would be buried in the soil where it would presumably be harmless to other creatures. This was a grave mistake.
The first clue that Colony Collapse Disorder was the result of poisoning, similar to the DDT bird kill-off decades ago, was when clothianidin was used on corn crops in Germany’s state of Baden-Wurttemberg. In July of 2007, the German crop was infested with root worms.
The German government ordered that every possible method should be used to eradicate this pest, including the use of neonicotinoids. Shortly after the seeds were planted, in May of 2008, some 330-million bees abruptly died. The global phenomenon has continued to this day, resulting in millions of dead colonies… billions of dead bees.
An investigation revealed that the seed coating did not stay in the soil but was introduced to the air (and the rest of the plant) by simple abrasion – the rubbing together of seeds – as they are stored, moved and planted. The German government quickly banned this pesticide, gave compensation to the farmers and issued a strong warning against using this chemical in agriculture. According to the German Federal Agriculture Institute, “It can unequivocally be concluded that poisoning of the bees is due to the rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin from corn seeds.”
According to the German Research Center for Cultivated Plants, 29 out of 30 dead bees had been killed, in the 2008 study, by direct contact with clothianidin. Philipp Mimkes, spokesman for the German-based Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, said: “We have been pointing out the risks of neonicotinoids for almost 10 years now. This proves without a doubt that the chemicals can come into contact with bees and kill them. These pesticides shouldn’t be on the market.”