Leaked memo implicates pesticide in bee losses

Posted by Christine, January 7, 2011

Although the U.K.’s Guardian continues to blame disease and lack of genetic diversity for deaths among bumblebees, http://m.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/03/bumblebees-study-us-decline?cat=environment&type=article, a leaked Environmental Protection Agency memo points the finger at a Bayer pesticide that wasn’t adquately vetted by the agency. Jill Richardson puts the pieces together for AlterNet, http://www.alternet.org/story/149150/leaked_memo_sheds_light_on_mysterious_bee_die-offs_and_who%27s_to_blame/:

 Beekeeper Tom Theobald, who exposed the leaked memo, says that beekeepers now lose 30 to 40 percent or more of their hives each year, and it takes two years to recover each one. Theobald has been a beekeeper in Boulder County, Colorado for 35 years, but now he says he’s not sure he can continue. “I can’t afford to subsidize this as a hobby. I’ll fold the tent,” he says. “Commercial beekeepers will work themselves to death,” he continues, noting that it’s only the passion and commitment of beekeepers that has staved off a complete collapse of the entire beekeeping industry this long.

Tom Philpott has been following the story of how the chemical was approved and the deficiencies in the study that justified it for Grist, http://www.grist.org/article/food-2010-12-23-epa-swats-away-bee-killing-pesticide-controversy.

The agency has failed to address any of the concerns about the Bayer study — including those raised by its own scientists in the leaked document. Staff scientists Joseph DeCant and Michael Barrett stated clearly that “deficiencies” in the study had caused them to downgrade its status from “accepted” to “supplemental.”

If the agency wants to reestablish itself itself as a protector of the environment — and not a guardian of corporate interest at the expense of the environment — it needs to explain precisely what those deficiencies were; why the study’s status was downgraded; and, given that its status was downgraded, on what basis the agency is still allowing Bayer to sell clothianidin.

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