On April 27, 2012 stockholders at the multinational corporation Bayer will hold the fate of bees in their hands. And it is not the first time. Pesticides produced by Bayer have been killing bees for several years now. The Coalition Against Bayer-Dangers has addressed the issue of bee killing for the past few years by directly offering countermotions at the annual stockholders meeting. Even beyond those efforts, Bayer itself has been aware of the dangers of its bee-killing culprit, an insecticide called neonicotinoids, for several years. Yet they have done nothing about it.
Neonicotinoids were initially developed because they showed reduced toxic effects in mammals. Yet if their continued use wipes out bees, it will be humans that ironically meet a similar end. Bees are one of the world’s most important pollinators and without them the world’s food supply would cease to be. Bees pollinate 90 percent of plants and crops around the world, so without them humans would die either of starvation without crops or of oxygen deprivation without plants producing oxygen.
Neonicotinoids are chemically related to nicotine, and just like tobacco-use in humans, after many years of unregulated usage neonicotinoids also were revealed to have detrimental causal connections to severe health problems. In this case, instead of lung cancer in humans, neonicotinoids cause colony collapse disorder. The causal link is so strong that it has provoked the banning and limiting of neonicotinoids in several countries including France, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia.
Colony collapse disorder causes worker bees to neglect providing foods for eggs and larvae in part because of the breakdown of their navigational abilities. Colony collapse disorder causes massive bee die-offs, because of its proven effects on their immune system (see the 2010 study by Dutch toxicologist Henk Tennekes, the 2012 P. Whitehorn study, and most recently the 2012 Purdue University 2-year long peer-reviewed study). The most detrimental factor of neonicotinoid poisoning is that the levels of poison are so high and concentrated that a foraging bee in a field that encounters the chemical will contaminate the whole hive upon its return. Contamination occurs at such a high rate because neonicotinoids are so affecting to bees and the measurement of even mild exposure rates was calculated at 70,000 times of what would be considered lethal to a bee.
In the last ten to twenty years bee populations have been in decline worldwide, especially in countries with high consumption rates of neonicotinoid based pesticides. Some species of bees have gone entirely extinct in recent years and the populations of bees in the United States are at 4 percent of their prior numbers.
Bayer has continuously disregarded such findings and continues to market products containing neonicotinoids around the world. While pressure has increased on Bayer to halt production of such chemicals for the sake of bees and humans, Bayer has neglected to do so in preference of making profits. If Bayer were to stop producing neonicotinoids it would prevent billions of bees from dying, but because Bayer is the largest producer of neonicotinoids they want to resist loosing their market advantage and profit margins.
More so, Bayer has influence over scientists and lawmakers because it produces its own studies denying the independent research that demonstrates the dangers of its pesticides. In 2010 a document from the Environmental Protection Agency was leaked to reveal that the EPA had actually rejected the findings of a Bayer study that was used to justify the registration of a neonicotinoid, clothianidin. The EPA document also expressed concerns about the health of honeybees. In the United States clothianidin is used mostly on corn. In 2009 alone Bayer made $262 million in sales of clothianidin.
To call on Bayer shareholders to change their ways and save bees, sign the Avaaz petition. By signing you will be attempting to make the world a safer place for bees and therefore for humans. To really make a difference, boycott Bayer products (See the full list here)!
Photo credit: legis.wisconsin.gov/lrb/symbols/images/bee_tif.jpg