With the precipitous decline in bee colonies as a result of toxic chemicals/pesticides is it time to ban the use of pesticides?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The knee-jerk reaction is to think, “Of course we should ban the use of pesticides. They are poisonous, sometimes carcinogenic, and often harm wildlife or beneficial plants.” One of the best-known examples of successfully banning a pesticide took place in the 1970s when the World Health Organization (WHO) banned the chemical DDT in response to a its strong link to causing cancer as well as having negative consequences on populations of such species as the American Bald Eagle and peregrine falcon.

Increasingly concentrated amounts of DDT worked their way up the food chain. By the time the predators ate their prey, the DDT was so concentrated it weakened the shells of the eggs, resulting in dramatically high mortality rates that caused eagle populations to drop to endangered levels. That ban on DDT resulted in a dramatic resurgence in bald eagles as well as other predatory birds that were at the top of the food chain.

What was not stressed, and is more important to humans, is that DDT was originally used in the 1950s and 1960s to combat malaria in tropical areas. Countries that used DDT to combat malaria saw deaths from the disease plummet. Malaria is still a problem in underdeveloped countries, but modern medicine and more discriminating use of DDT have somewhat mitigated deaths from malaria.

So a chemical that is bad in one respect also has the capability of saving lives and preventing epidemic disease. Other chemicals are similarly harmful and beneficial at the same time depending on how they are used. The question should not be should we ban all harmful chemicals, because chemicals in and of themselves are not harmful or good, they are just chemicals. How we humans choose to use them is the real question.

We shouldn’t ban pesticides en masse. We should determine their best uses and balance the benefits against the potential harm they may cause. One species should not be saved or protected if it decimates another population, especially the human population. Bees are a vital part of the ecosystem for their role in pollinating plants. They must be given a high priority but not so high that a ban on pesticides will cause more serious problems for humans.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent- Colony collapse disorder, that’s the condition associated with the disappearance of the majority of worker bees.  The queen is left behind and a few nurse bees to tend to immature bees, but the rest of the colony is history.  While worker bees have been disappearing throughout history, there has been an immense rise in their disappearances, especially in western honey bees.

A particular pesticide was seen as a factor contributing to their disappearance. If left unchecked, massive harm could be inflicted on the country’s economy.  On a global scale, it is known that western honey bees pollinate most agricultural crops.  Based on information gathered from a well reputed organization, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture, honey bees pollinated crops were estimated to worth approximately $200 billion.  Surely, the disappearance of these colonies in the US has a negative and ripple effect.

How can the government put a halt or reduce the numbers at which these bees disappear? It is clear; ban the use of the known chemical contributing to this factor.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Having robbed beehives, built beehives and otherwise assisted professional beekeepers in various capacities over the years, I have a deep and abiding respect for our little winged buddies.  Without them, our food supply would collapse in fairly short order … and getting honey mustard sauce with my chicken tenders would become completely impossible.

The link between widespread pesticide use and colony collapse disorder has been fairly well documented, and to me it leaves a clear choice for the farmers not just of the United States, but of the entire world:  They can either curtail their pesticide habits or lose the chief pollinator of just about every major food crop on the planet.  Killing the bugs that eat the tomatoes won’t do a damned bit of good if there are no tomatoes to protect.  In our quest to feed ever-greater numbers of people with ever-smaller hectares of farmland, we’ve futzed about with the natural order.

Bees and other pollinators as well as beneficial soil insects such as earthworms are being killed by indiscriminate pesticide application, and it’s got to stop.

One alternative to the pesticide spraying is seeds that are genetically modified to produce pest-resistant plants.  Of course that brings up the specter of GMO-phobia, and starts a whole new round of shouting.  Personally, I have little to no issue with genetic tinkering.  Every time man has selected one kind of corn over another because it grew better, gave more ears, etc., and then hybridized that corn with another to get just what he wanted, he’s been genetically modifying organisms.  Put simply: If we want to continue feeding the billions of mouths on the planet, genetically modified crops are not just a possibility, but a necessity.  And if we can save the bees in the process, that’s a win-win situation.

And now I’m going to go slam my head in a door for using “win-win situation.”

Prescott Valley, NV Correspondent-The decline in bee colonies is a result of a number of different causes, and in addition to pesticides, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has contributed to the decrease, though in recent years the number of losses of bees has lessened with this occurrence.

The disorder is characterized by a large number of worker bees abandoning the colony and leaving the queen behind with a few nurse bees that care for the queen and undeveloped bees.  Bee hives cannot maintain themselves without worker bees, and the hives eventually dies and are no longer habitable.   This combination of events resulting in the loss of a bee colony has been called Colony Collapse Disorder. This irregularity was thought to bring about a loss of bees, particularly in the winter months.

Though the CDC anomaly does not necessarily mean the total decline of bee colonies, pesticides do appear to be a substantial part of what is harming bees and causing their decline as well.  Certain pesticides do affect bees and are harmful to them and the labeling and use of certain chemicals is extremely important in the protection of bee hives.  If overexposure to pesticides occurs, almost all the bees in a hive will be killed by the exposure.  Poisoning of bees through pesticides (beekill) is a different occurrence in relationship to the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

The pesticides that are affecting bees, neonicotinoids, are sprayed on grains, vegetables and other crops and are a threat to honey bees, and one particular pesticide in this general group of pesticides, imidacloprid, has been determined by the EPA to be extremely dangerous to bees and their hives as well as certain crops.  Comprehensive risk assessments conducted by the EPA have determined that this nicotine imitator should be banned across the entire country.

With the importance of bee activity being at risk, it is important to weigh not only bee life and the honey they produce, but the fact that humans are affected by bee pollination with the food they consume.  A good percentage of food consumed is in plant form, which is pollinated by honeybees. The food chain relies on insects that pollinate.  With the loss of large numbers of bees at a time, the production of food could be compromised.

Environmental and other groups want neonicotinoids banned altogether because of the impact they have on the nervous systems of honeybees, and the EPA is committed to protecting bees and preventing their loss.   With the consideration of banning underway at this time, it appears that some kind of action will be taken.  The EPA assessment did show that imidacloprid is threatening to honeybee colonies when sprayed on citrus trees and cotton, but apparently it is not threatening with leafy type vegetables and corn.

With the inconsistencies shown with imidacloprid, and the cries for banning by environmental groups and government agencies, it seems that more testing should be completed to determine exactly what type of pesticides affect honey bees and on what plants.  Pesticide development should be analyzed and changed to reflect what is effective against true pests yet not seriously harmful to bees and other insects that are helpful to plants and the environment.

It seems that banning all neonicotinoids should be more seriously analyzed before completely dismissing what works and what doesn’t, and what truly can protect plantings while protecting bees.  The safeguarding and preservation of honeybee hives must also be taken into consideration with Colony Collapse Disorder at the same time.  Abandoned hives and pesticides create complications with any kind of pollination activity. Without serious thought and further study as to what it is in the environment that is creating unsettling difficulties with honeybees, it is hard to ban all neonicotinoids that are not harmful to bees and plants. Temporary bans on certain neonicotinoids could be a suggestion for the interim and put into effect until such time that more closely tested and monitored pesticides can be developed.  In the meantime, bees and some plants may continue to suffer and bear the brunt of the long, drawn-out EPA and other environmental group studies.


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