This report by Dan Rather is worth watching. (http://www.panna.org/blog/dan-rather-pesticides-bees)
It provides a good look at how systemic pesticides can and are having serious affects on our pollinators and the lack of regulation and oversight involved in bringing them to market.
I think that what we are witnessing with honeybees and colony collapse is an urgent and immediate example of the continued lack of appropriate precaution in pesticide and new crop regulation.
“Honey bees are still dying off at an average rate of 34% year… The report zeroes in on EPA’s failure to adequately assess the toxicity of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides widely considered by beekeepers to be a causal factor in the recent honey bee declines.”
These systemic pesticides were on the market for 8 years before the EPA agreed that the studies provided by the chemical company arguing they have no impact on bees – performed on 2.5 acres (while honeys bees range 100s of acres) – were not adequate!
Honeybees are just one pollinator that we can track because of the large honeybee industry – but fungicides, pesticides and other chemical residues that are found in the pollen of plants treated with systemic pesticides will affect all pollinators.
I find it hard to stomach the rallying argument by industry PR folks – that we need pesticides (or GM crops) to be able feed a growing population. And thus we need to bring new pesticides (or GM crops) to market as fast as we can.
If we have no pollinators it does not matter how productive the corn crop will be, our food systems will be forever compromised.
As a mum I watch precious, complex, and amazing little bodies grow – and I worry about what we are doing to our food and all that we, and our children need to breath, drink and live healthy lives.
As the Executive Director of FarmStart I watch new farm business and passionate new farmers grow – and I worry about what we are doing to our critical and complex agro-ecologies that they rely on to be able to produce the nutritious food we all need to survive and thrive.
As a citizen I watch the confusing and unwieldy political and regulatory system continue to favor profits rather than precaution in the name of “risk-benefit management – and I worry that we will always claim we don’t have enough scientific knowledge to be able to make the right decisions for today and the future.
But then I look to ecologists such as Sandra Steingraber who have laid out the clear and complex connections between our bodies, our health and our ecosystems. In her book Having Faith Steingraber also “reveals the alarming extent to which environmental hazards—from industrial poisons found in amniotic fluid to the toxic contamination of breast milk—now threaten each crucial stage of infant development.”.
And the United Nations IAASTD report – which included 400 scientists – that “recommends that agricultural science place greater emphasis on safeguarding natural resources and on ‘agro-ecological’ practices, including the use of natural fertilizers, traditional seeds and intensified natural practices, and reducing the distance between production and the consumer.”
Or the many studies and long term trials (such as the Rodale Institute’s report on their 30 year Farming Systems Trial. (http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years) that continue to prove that organic agriculture is equally productive during good years and is more resilient to pest pressures and drought than what we call ‘conventional’ production.
And I realize that we have the scientific knowledge and the agricultural practices – we just need more political will. We need to adopt precautionary approaches to regulation and we need to approach agriculture differently.
It is time that we demand it and make it happen.
I look to the new farmers we work with and I believe that a different kind of future in agriculture is possible. It is not only possible – but it is beautiful, diverse and delicious.Christie Young Executive Director FarmStart