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.”
“In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen,” the document further states.
Mason and her research team found additional evidence of corporate/EPA cover-up regarding the effects of clothianidin. This 99-page EPA memorandum dated November 2, 2010, [PDF] noted, in part:
The major risk concerns are with aquatic free-swimming and benthic invertebrates, terrestrial invertebrates, birds and mammals. …
Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to non-target 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. … 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.
A number of EPA scientists — those with integrity, anyway — have tried along the way to sound the alarm — over both glyphosate and clothianidin. In a piece for The Huffington Post, former EPA scientist Evaggelos Vallianatos wrote that honeybees were on the verge of extinction.
He further noted:
In my 25-year experience at the US EPA, nothing illustrated the deleterious nature of “pesticides” and “regulation” better than the plight of honeybees.
Here is a beneficial insect pollinating a third of America’s crops, especially fruits and vegetables, and we thank it with stupefying killing.
Poisoning of honeybees became routine in the mid-1970s with the EPA’s approval of neurotoxins encapsulated in dust-size particles that took days to release their deadly gas.
He further noted that some of his colleagues have tried to denounce the EPA actions, but the agency reacted “with fury” after one EPA ecologists discovered neurotoxic plastic spheres in the gut of a queen honeybee, which “meant poison in the honey.”
“It forced the scientist out of his laboratory and into paper pushing in Washington. Approval of the industry’s neurotoxins expanded to cover most major crops. This meant honeybees had less and less space to search for food without dying,” Villianatos wrote.
Read the entire Mason report here [PDF].