By Paul Driessen Washington will soon be abuzz with debates over honeybees. President Barack Obama has commissioned a “pollinator task force,” and a federal honeybees strategy is expected any day now. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency appears to be preparing its own regulations to “protect” bees.
Farm state representatives need to follow this closely, or they could find their constituents getting steamrolled by junk science. To please an increasingly noisy band of loyal activists, the White House has positioned itself to bypass congressional committees that have jurisdiction over these issues, and impose sweeping pesticide restrictions that ignore potential damages to farmers, consumers — and honeybees. Environmental activists are promoting fictions of a “bee-pocalypse,” to hamper the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Derived from nicotine, neonics were designed from the ground up to be safer for humans and other animals, but deadly to crop-killing pests and yet having little impact on insects that do not feed on crops.
Neonics are most often used to coat crop seeds, enabling plants to incorporate the pesticide into their internal defense systems. This means farmers can reduce spraying of older pesticides that are much more toxic to humans and beneficial insects alike, including bees.
Farmers like neonics because they work. Perversely, that may help explain why activists targeted neonics as the culprit in sensationalized accounts of “disappearing” bees.
They oppose insecticides in any form, promote organic farming as a “better” and “more sustainable” alternative to modern mechanized farming, receive millions of dollars annually from EPA and organic interests, and ignore the harmful consequences of their policies. They also ignore facts about bees.
Honeybees are thriving! U.S. Department of Agriculture data show United States beehive numbers have remained steady for decades, at about 2.5 million – and have increased slightly in recent years, amid growing neonics use. Bee populations are likewise rising in Europe, Canada and around the world.
Controversy over bee numbers appears to be carefully coordinated. A leaked 2010 strategy memo from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Worldwide Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides revealed that European researchers tasked with developing an objective assessment of neonics instead conspired to fabricate studies, to advance a predetermined outcome.
“The most urgent thing is to obtain the necessary policy change to have the pesticides banned,” they wrote, before they had conducted a single study.
The IUCN’s “research” has been a major rationale for Europe’s two-year ban on neonics. It took effect a year ago, with disastrous results. Flea beetles have run rampant in British oilseed rape (canola) fields, where farmers expect a 15 percent drop in profits. The EU policy also forced farmers to turn to less efficient chemicals, which are known to be harmful to bees.
Now “more pesticides are being used and, even more ridiculous, there will be massively less rapeseed,” Cambridge, U.K., farmer Martin Jenkins told Bloomberg Business. This was the first flea beetle infestation he had seen in almost a decade, he added.
Back in the U.S., the EPA appears to be caving in to the same activist pressure. It produced a questionable study on the efficacy of neonic use on soybeans. Although this kind of analysis isn’t within EPA’s purview, it was a convenient way to report negative results without saying something wholly untrue about the product’s safety.
The efficacy study was based on highly selective literature reviews and interviews with a mere handful of farmers who said this pesticide wasn’t very useful to them.
That approach has become standard procedure for EPA — on mercury, soot, climate change, water, mining and pesticides. The agency “adjusts” or fabricates data, selects “studies” that support its predetermined decision, ignores contrary evidence, and implements its agenda.
Thousands of soy farmers, represented by the American Soybean Association, are furious about the EPA distortions and insist that neonics are critical to their operations. Meanwhile, high-level EPA officials ignore Congress, while telling activist groups like Friends of the Earth that the agency intends to reverse past promises and issue an “efficacy report” on corn.
Regulators release reports like this to justify controversial regulations. Restrictions on neonics would take a vital tool from America’s corn and soybean farmers. The resulting productivity loss would be measured in billions of dollars.
Members of Congress from agricultural districts, regardless of political party, must stand up for their constituents — and for good science — by stopping EPA overreach. Allowing invasive pests to destroy crops — while forcing farmers to spraying more toxic chemicals — is bad for bees, farmers, food and families.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and author of "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power — Black Death," and author of many articles on energy, pesticide, climate and other environmental issues. The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.