The Buzz on Bees: Funding is Needed for Die-off Research
Honeybees are critical to production of some 130 food crops, adding $15 billion to their value. Last winter, U.S. beekeepers surveyed by the Agricultural Research Service reported a total loss of 36 percent of their honeybee colonies, up 13.5 percent from the previous winter. It’s been over two years since Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg first alerted authorities to the mysterious disappearance of bees, now known worldwide as Colony Collapse Disorder, but promised research funding has failed to materialize.
One suspected culprit is a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, marketed since the 1990s. Banned by France, Italy, Germany and Slovenia, they are still used on 120 U.S. crops. Studies show that neonicotinoids impair bees’ navigational and foraging abilities.
Entomologist Kimberly Stoner, with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, notes that standards here differ from those in Europe, where countries operate under a policy of precautionary principle. “It says that when there is enough data to have a serious suspicion of harm, you can go ahead and act, without having to have absolute proof of harm,” says Stoner. “It puts the burden of proof more on people who market pesticides to show that the claim is unfounded. Here, you have to show proof of harm.”
Primary Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture and Palm Beach Post.