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Bees play a role in one out of every three bites of food Americans eat

A new article by Barbara Kessler on examines the importance of pollinators in our food chain, colony-collapse disorder (CCD), and its possible causes. From the article:
Over the last two years, bee keepers have lost hives at levels never before seen. U.S. beekeepers have lost a startling 35 percent of their colonies due to various causes since September 2007, according to government surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America. The surveys didn’t separate out the CCD losses from normal losses to diseases that affect bees. But all agree that CCD is responsible for the surge of bee deaths. That current estimated 2007-2008 loss rate is up 10 percent compared to a similar survey conducted the year before, signaling a potential dire future. “Not only is this an economic issue for beekeepers and farmers that depend on the bees for pollinations. This is an environmental problem,’’ Mendes said. “The bees are the canary in the mine.” In May, Germany banned several neo-nicotinoid pesticides, including clothianidin, after the chemical drifted to canola fields from a corn-growing operation and apparently killed masses of bees. Officials attributed the problem to the misapplication of the pesticide-coated corn seed and the unusual timing of the corn being planted just as the canola was pollinating. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which approved the use of clothianidin in 2003, while also noting its toxicity to bees, is now researching the problem, a spokesman said. As a result of the German incident, a leading bee expert is calling for a U.S. ban of clothianidin. Canadian geneticist Joe Cummins believes the pesticide needs further investigation and that farmers should start planting pesticide-free bee refuges now, and not wait for definitive answers on CCD, which might not come in time. Mendes doesn’t go so far as to endorse a return organic farming, but he does say the German ban should perk up ears in the United States, because the Germans are known for making science-based decisions. He believes U.S. government’s concept of safe thresholds are part of the problem because chemicals that are not “lethal” on contact to honeybees (or other pollinators) can obtain EPA approval, even though their longterm effect could be deadly. Both sides of the debate over pesticides and whether they are to blame for CCD are deeply worried about food supplies. Cummins says the threat to food is too great to ignore. Bayer CropScience, the global insecticide company and a maker of clothianidin and other neo-nicotinoids, cites the same concern, noting on its website that the German farmers using the pesticide were under state orders to take steps to fight the western corn rootworm which threatened corn crops. The company maintains that that its pesticide is safe if applied correctly. “We are saddened by the loss of the bees…” said Dr. Richard Schmuck, a Bayer scientist, in a news release. But now authorities should work together to “improve application technology” for clothianidin so the ban can be lifted and innovative seed-treatment technology for safeguarding harvests can be made available to farmers again as quickly as possible.”
Read the full article here.

50 Low-Cost, Low-Tech Solutions to Save the Planet

Tired of watching people spend so much time thinking up big solutions to big problems that it has a paralyzing effect on taking action? If you’re like author Courtney White, the answer is yes. That’s why in Two Percent Solutions for the Planet, he takes readers on a journey to show how low-cost, easy-to-implement solutions […] Read More..

5 Common Invasive Species and How to Manage Them

Last week, we asked authors Tao Orion and Katrina Blair to share alternative approaches to managing five different plant species commonly held to be “invasive.” St. John’s Wort, Garlic Mustard, Thistle, Oxeye Daisy, and Kudzu are often dismissed as annoyances at best and the target of aggressive eradication with harmful chemicals at worst. Orion and […] Read More..

What in the World is a Pawpaw?

Have you heard of the pawpaw? A few generations ago, most would say “yes!” You could ask just about anyone and they could tell you what this fruit looked and tasted like, and more importantly, where to find it. But today, the pawpaw remains a mystery to some and entirely unknown to others. In Pawpaw: […] Read More..

Uncovering the Many Uses for Abundant Kudzu

As Invasive Species Week comes to a close, Tao Orion, author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species, and Katrina Blair, author of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds,  share alternative approaches to understanding and managing Kudzu. Take a look through our final profile and check out any you might have missed along the way: Oxeye […] Read More..

Oxeye Daisy: A Plant for the Pollinators

As Invasive Species Week continues, Tao Orion, author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species, and Katrina Blair, author of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, are sharing alternative approaches to managing and using plants considered to be “invasive.” Take a look through today’s profile on Oxeye Daisy and check out tips for working with Garlic […] Read More..
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