By Mark Wachtler
July 11, 2014. Canada. (ONN) In 2006, a global die-off of our planet’s bee population began. Bee keepers the world over reported the sudden and mysterious deaths of entire colonies. Since then, researchers have struggled to learn the cause of the death of over 500 billion honey bees and counting. With 80 percent of edible plants and 7 billion humans dependent on bees for survival, this could become a catastrophe of biblical proportions.
The secret’s out. Image courtesy of OrganicConsumers.org.
Catastrophe on a global scale
When the annual March Against Monsanto demonstration took place a few weeks ago in cities around the world, your author was surprised to see that genetically modified foods (GMOs) weren’t the number one topic of protest. Instead, millions of people in almost 100 countries around the world elevated the plight of the globe’s honey bees to emergency #1. For Whiteout Press readers, this isn’t new. We exposed the pesticides in an article over two year ago titled, ‘Emergency Motion to stop Nicotine Pesticide in Global Bee die-off’.
After looking at the rapidly growing mountain of recent evidence, it’s obvious why bees were the hot topic for anti-Monsanto activists. The companies that are producing laboratory-created GMO food substitutes are some of the same corporations that are producing the pesticide now being blamed for killing off the Earth’s bees. And in turn, possibly killing off 80% of the world’s plants and plant-dependent species that rely on bees for their existence. According to a recent Huffington Post report, that includes 7.2 billion humans and 200,000 different plant species.
Lack of consensus
Since the start of the global bee die-off, these pesticide-producing multi-national corporations have repeatedly blamed other factors in an attempt to shield their extremely profitable neonicotinoid pesticides from blame. But more and more independent researchers are now blaming that specific type of pesticide for killing the bees, as well as birds, worms and other animals.
Highly compensated corporate scientists routinely point their fingers at the tiny Varroa Mite, a bug that targets bees and is known to carry a disease that can wipe out entire bee colonies. Other scientists blame global warming for the mass bee deaths. Only yesterday, the Washington Post published a report which quoted one of the manufacturers of these neonicotinoid pesticides deflecting the accusations. “Even though all the evidence points to various parasites and diseases being the true cause of poor bee health, we are keen to do everything in our power to give consumers confidence in our products,” Bayer CropScience’s Ruediger Scheitza told the press.
The Huff Post article also describes how climate change and global warming are at least partially responsible for the world’s bee apocalypse. The author cites Australia, where the almond, apple, pear and cherry industries are being devastated by seemingly never-ending record breaking heat waves. The incessant heat is making both the country’s water and bee populations disappear, both of which are required for vegetation to grow. One scientist described how Australia’s heat was so intense, it was melting the beeswax inside the bees’ honeycombs, adding to the massive bee die-off. The result has been a 50% reduction in the country’s honey production, forcing the longtime honey exporter to become a honey importer.
Neonicotinoid pesticides - the smoking gun
Since the middle of May however, a stream of independent scientific reports have been released which place the blame for the Earth’s bee die-off squarely on the shoulders of the chemical corporations that produce neonicotinoid pesticides. Two of those companies are Syngenta and Bayer.
Two weeks ago, The Star in Canada published the results of a study done to find the cause of the country’s rapidly growing bee extinction. The international panel of 50 scientists that carried out the research was called the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. One shocking discovery the group made during their investigation was that millions of falsely-advertised “bee friendly” plants sold at large garden centers in 18 cities across the US and Canada were actually contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides, deadly to bees. They found that between 50-60 percent of all plants labeled as “bee friendly” are actually coated or ingrained with neonicotinoid pesticides.
In addition to doing their own research, the scientists also collected the results of 800 previous studies done on the subject of neonicotinoid pesticides and their impact on plants and animals. The panel of 50 independent scientists concluded that the collective results, ‘provide conclusive evidence that the pesticides are causing the mass deaths of insects that are essential to the process of pollinating most crops.’ The government in Canada rejected the findings with the country’s Health Minister Rona Ambrose calling the results, “inconclusive.”
The combined research also showed that bees weren’t alone in being decimated by the neonicotinoids. They say other insects and even earthworms and birds are experiencing mysterious widespread die-offs due to the fatal pesticide. Many American bald eagle lovers are now wondering if it’s the pesticides that are destroying the continent’s eagle population. More and more, bald eagles are being found by ranchers and homeowners, barely alive and convulsing on the ground with seizures - the exact same reaction bees have to neonicotinoid pesticides.
Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Fukushima Meltdown infecting US Babies, maybe Bald Eagles’ for more information on that still-unsolved mystery.
Additional evidence against neonicotinoid pesticides
Also in the last few weeks, another research report was published showing the effects of neonicotinoids on honey bees and other plants and animals. Carried out by a Harvard University biologist and published in the Bulletin of Insectology, the study clearly showed that neonicotinoid pesticides were the culprit of the massive bee die-offs, at least in cooler than average regions like Massachusetts where the research was done. Corporate spokespeople are using that lack of temperature variation to reject the study’s results.
Fortunately, the science experiment was so simple, even an 8th grader could reproduce it at their grade school science fair. As much as we at Whiteout Press would love to see that happen in schools across America, do not attempt it. As evidenced by these studies, neonicotinoid pesticides are extremely dangerous and pose numerous known and unknown health risks.
Harvard’s professor Chensheng Lu and his co-researchers studied 3 locations in central Massachusetts, each with 6 separate bee colonies, for a total of 18 test subjects. At each location, the 6 colonies were divided into 3 groups with 2 colonies each. Two colonies were treated with the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin made by Takeda Chemical and Bayer AG. Two colonies were treated with imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide made by Bayer CropScience. And two colonies were left untreated by any insecticide.
The study’s shocking results
The scientists reported that when they began treating and studying the 18 bee colonies - 12 treated with the controversial pesticide and 6 not treated with anything - all 18 progressed through the beginning of winter similarly and as expected. The colonies all slowly and steadily shrank in population due to the cold.
The shock to the researchers came when the days began getting longer and temperatures slowly began to warm up. Nature’s cue to bees everywhere kicked in and just like every Spring, the bee populations began to grow again. But not in the two-thirds of studied bee colonies treated with the neonicotinoid pesticides. While the untreated bee colonies exploded with new life like normal, the 12 colonies exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides continued to shrink in population right through Spring and into Summer.
By April, 6 of the 12 neonicotinoid-treated bee colonies had been wiped out completely. By comparison, only 1 of the 6 untreated bee colonies was eventually lost. The Harvard scientists examined the lost hives and concluded the bee colony was wiped out by the intestinal parasite Nosema ceranae. That’s one of the known causes of occasional bee die-offs that chemical corporations are accusing of being the lone culprit of the current global crisis rather than their pesticides.
The scientists also produced evidence that extreme temperatures coupled with the neonicotinoid pesticides was nearly 100% fatal to bee populations. They point to the same study done one year prior to the just-published results. In that study, the researchers found that 94% of bee colonies treated with the controversial pesticide had been completely wiped out. They hesitated pointing the finger at the deadly chemical however because they admitted the study was done during a colder than normal period which is known to kill off bee populations in its own right. But they point to the near universal extinction that occurred when the extreme temperatures were combined with neonicotinoids.
For now, chemical corporations like Bayer are still denying their multi-billion-dollar product is responsible for driving the world’s bees to near-extinction. And national governments like those in Canada and the United States are more than happy to toe the company line. But local governments are finally beginning to fight back on their own. The city of Eugene, Oregon recently became the first city in the US to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. With mounting evidence and outcry from the public, it probably won’t be the last.
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