Last month, an EPA document leaked to a Colorado beekeeper shed light on the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder that has been plaguing honeybees since at least 2006. The document, dated November 2, 2010, details how the pesticide clothianidin, produced by the German agrichemical mogul Bayer, was found to be toxic to honeybees:
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 ... 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 memo comes on the heels of Bayer's request to expand the use of clothianidin to cotton and mustard. The EPA granted Bayer full registration for clothianidin on corn and canola last April. The EPA's response to the leaked document, as well as a thorough time line of the story, can be read on Tom Philpott's nicely detailed article on grist.com.
Meanwhile, we learned more recently that bumblebees are joining the ranks of the waning honeybee population. According to the Guardian, four species of bumblebees have seen their populations drop by 96% in only a few decades. So far, the decline is thought to be from a combination of disease and low genetic diversity.
It remains to be seen whether the bee decline is a case of genocide by corporate colonization -- if not entirely premeditated, then certainly not prevented by chemical corporations. As the demand for pesticide-free growing increases, artificial pollinators could quietly take pesticides' place.
Check out a preview of the documentary, Vanishing of the Bees, which has scheduled screenings nationwide:
Vanishing of the Bees - Trailer from Bee The Change on Vimeo.