EPA Knowingly Allowed Bee Killing Pesticide

by Sarah Activism, Healthy LivingComments: 20

Honeybee HeavenColorado beekeeper Tom Theobald has found himself with a bulls eye on his forehead for calling attention to a leaked EPA document that shows that the agency knowingly approved the pesticide clothianidin despite clear evidence of its toxic effects on honeybees, birds, and other animal species.

Clothianidin is an insecticide that disrupts the central nervous system of insects.   A related chemical, imidacloprid, was released in 1994 and was banned by France in 2003 for the bee die-offs its use seemed to trigger.

Clothianidin was released in 2003 by Bayer corporation for use on corn, canola, sugarbeets, wheat, soy, and sunflowers.   The pesticide is quite a moneymaker for Bayer, raking in $262 million in sales in 2009.

The company subsequently released a life cycle study on the pesticide in 2006 at the EPA’s request.   Not surprisingly, the company’s internal study showed no toxic effects to bees.   The study was extremely flawed as test and control fields were planted less than 1000 feet apart and the EPA knew it.

Despite this knowledge, The EPA continued to allow clothianidin even though other countries banned its use including France, Slovenia, Germany, and Italy.

The leaked document was put out by EPA’s own scientists in response to Bayer’s request to expand the use of the pesticide to mustard and cotton.    The 101 page report states:

“Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.”

This leaked document, received by Mr. Theobald only this year, completely and utterly invalidates Bayer’s flawed report.    The recommendation of its own scientists doesn’t hold enough weight for the EPA, however, which is still permitting use of clothianidin.

Can the United States afford to lose any more bees?    Tom Theobald doesn’t think so.   His honey crop this year is the smallest in 35 years of beekeeping.    A collapse of the bee industry threatens a whopping one third of agriculture in the United States alone.

Shockingly, as of this writing, the EPA states that it still has no plans to ban clothianidin.    Sticking its regulatory head in the sand seems to be the EPA’s go to approach for dealing with this highly embarrassing, “sticky” situation.

On the bright side, thank goodness for organic beekeepers.    Colony collapse disorder has not affected organic hives and now we know why!    At least if the conventional bee industry collapses, we still have organic bees to fall back on although it would be a long road back to where the industry was before clothianidin.

* UPDATE:  As of September 23, 2012, in 48 hours the EPA will decide whether to suspend the use of this toxic pesticide.  Click here to sign a petition to urge them to stop the use of this bee killing chemical immediately.


Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com

Source:   FastCompany
Picture Credit

Comments (20)

  • Tim Huntley

    re: organic beekeepers

    A lot of us are keeping bees without the use of treatments, and we still lose bees every year. One of the big things that I didn’t see mentioned in this post or the one about “organic beekeeping” is how the genetic pool for bees has gotten very shallow. Many beekeepers, commercial and otherwise, purchase “package” bees every year from Georgia and Florida. A package is typically 3 lbs of worker bees plus a queen. Some of these farms that provide packages can “graft” up to 50,000 daughter queens from a single queen whose traits they prefer.

    What we need, and many people are working on, is a more diverse set of regionally adapted queens (and bees), ones that do a better job of dealing with pests like mites as well as knowing how to match the seasonal ebb and flow of nectar in their area. Basically, using industrial farming techniques on bees :)

    December 15th, 2010 10:33 am Reply
  • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

    Even not using treatments will still cause a problem as the bees roam to other treated fields in the area. This is why organic bees are not experiencing losses as to be certified “organic” a bee hive cannot be within 5 miles radius of any treated agriculture (from what I have been told by a beekeeper in my local area).

    December 15th, 2010 10:38 am Reply
  • Tim Huntley

    Understood and I agree. Clearly these pesticides are very bad for bees. And while I am not certified organic, I do not believe I am within 5 miles of an large scale row crop agriculture.

    What I am suggesting is there a lot of reasons that people who keep bees lose some number of them every year, even organic beekeepers. Maybe the organic folks aren’t seeing the problems with CCD; however they definitely lose bees for other reasons, like the one I mentioned above.

    Keep up the good work. More people need to understand how critical the bees are to our food supply.

    December 15th, 2010 10:56 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Thanks for clarifying Tim. I appreciate the input from someone who is actually in the trenches and knows about these problems from first hand experience.

      December 15th, 2010 1:12 pm Reply
  • Rick

    What a surprise… a government agency is lying to support a business…. next you will tell me water is wet, knives cut, and the earth is round. :)
    This is the same agency that has been caught lying and covering up for BP in the oil spill and for the incompetence of the federal government as a whole in dealing with disasters. Watch in the next 5 years. Browner or another high up in the EPA will be working for Bayer or have a chair position with them. MAKES ME SICK!

    December 15th, 2010 11:40 am Reply
  • Valerie

    Unfortunately, even if the beekeepers, especially hobby beekeepers, practice organic methods, bees don’t see boundaries. Nothing stops them from visiting neighboring fields or flowers. This may explain why I lost both hives this past summer. If that pesticide is now being used in corn and cotton. Both are grown just a few miles from my home.

    December 15th, 2010 1:32 pm Reply
  • Raine

    This makes me sick, Sarah. Thank you for sharing this information. It all makes sense since ALL pesticides are harmful as they are capable of destroying the internal organs and nervous systems of insects. Why are people so certain they cannot harm us and other living organisms? I know people who work in these industries and defend them to the end. It is so revolting.

    December 15th, 2010 1:50 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      It makes me sick too Raine. I am still so sorry I’m not going to get to see you next week! :(

      December 15th, 2010 2:44 pm Reply
  • Pavil, The Uber Noob

    I wonder if it makes sense to start holding our state agencies responsible for doing what they can to protect.
    Also, Is there a way to follow the money when we see this type of malfeasance?

    December 15th, 2010 2:16 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Pavil, I have no doubt though I have no proof that the EPA officials who approved the use of clothianidin despite the protest of their own scientists are getting compensated somehow for their misdeeds. It might not be money either as this would be out and out bribery and would be prosecutable in a court of law. It could be that the companies they protect who are harming the environment have promised them lucrative positions or consulting gigs once they ‘retire’ from the EPA. Similar type stuff goes on between the FDA and Big Pharma. They are all in bed together and the two agencies are one big revolving door.

      December 15th, 2010 2:42 pm Reply
  • Gina

    In addition to your article, I have also read that many commercial beekeepers feed HFCS to bees so that they may produce more honey. HFCS, when allowed to reach high temperatures, produces HMF which has been found to be not only toxic and deadly to bees but a possible contributer to CCD. Also, HMF is currently being studied to confirm/refute that it also damages human DNA. Something interesting to research as well.

    December 15th, 2010 2:20 pm Reply
  • BC

    Take action and go to the website for the Pesticide Action Network North America
    and submit the petition to the EPA requesting a stop use of clothianidin until appropriate scientific studies determine UNEQUIVOCALLY that this chemical does not affect pollinators. These studies should have been done before this product was registered. Need a scary fact to get you moving? Clothianidin remains residual in the soil for up to 19 years.

    December 17th, 2010 11:14 am Reply
  • Pingback: Co-operative Urban Bees and village wind

  • Elizabeth Joiner via Facebook

    Holy cow! I never knew about this. So sad! One of the sad twists of the disappearing bees. :/

    September 23rd, 2012 8:43 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Actually, I worded that wrong .. in 48 hours the public comment period for whether to ban clothianidin will end ….

    September 23rd, 2012 8:47 pm Reply
  • Bettina Strunk via Facebook

    doesn’t it do harm do infant children (brain) too? I thought I’ve read an article that it might be considered to be taken off the market in 2015.

    September 23rd, 2012 9:06 pm Reply
  • Karin Remkes via Facebook

    That sucks and stinks!!!!!!!!!! (;

    September 24th, 2012 12:51 am Reply
  • Nilaratna Xuto via Facebook

    why isn’t this a no-brainer kind of decision? it’s sad that it isn’t.

    September 24th, 2012 6:55 am Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    @Bettina I haven’t read that but certainly would be possible.

    September 24th, 2012 8:08 am Reply
  • Jarrod Woodard via Facebook

    the EPA causes more harm than it fixes… hoping a government body acts intelligently is…. fruitless, to say the least.

    September 24th, 2012 11:46 am Reply

Leave a Comment