Get ready. Here’s a conservative view on environmental disaster.
Why mix politics into my blog? They aren’t particularly relevant to what I’m writing about today (I’m sure some will disagree). And the words “conservative” and “Republican” are almost considered dirty words on the internet unless you’re chatting with your fellow Fox-News-watching, NRA-loving, pro-life, moral-majority-type cohorts.
I’m here to tell you that some conservatives give a damn about what’s happening to our environment. Or rather, impending environmental disaster. It’s not politics or big business to blame. It’s the love of money.
You see, we want to buy better, cheaper products. That includes fruits and vegetables and clothing. And companies respond in kind. They genetically engineer our foods so that every single apple looks exactly the same. Sure, they taste good but there are huge ramifications for the lack of biodiversity (just read about the plight of the Cavendish bananas).
Oh. And they also use extremely toxic chemicals to ensure no weeds or insects will ever interfere with the uniformity and redness of our strawberries. Or apples.
I get that pest control is in important part of responsible farming. I understand that not every chemical substance ever produced by man is made from the devil himself. And it’s also why we have organizations like the FDA and the EPA to ensure that our bodies and environment are safely protected from such chemicals.
I almost choked when I wrote that last statement.
And there’s something that has sparked said choking.
A few years ago, I remember indulging in some ice cream, which is a rare treat for me because I’m not really the biggest fan in the world. (P.S. I don’t really like chocolate either. I’m seeking therapy). Specifically, it was Häagen-Dazs ice cream. I remember it appealed to me because they touted it as having only 5 ingredients, all of which I could pronounce.
I also remember reading something on their package about the declining rates of honey bees. Now why would an ice cream package be talking to me about honey bees? It turns out I was living in a very dark closet and didn’t really know about the problem with the bees.
I asked my husband, he-who-knows-everything, and he confirmed that, indeed, the world’s honey bee populations are declining at an alarming and inexplicable rate. So what’s a few less bugs in the world? No, no, no. Think Circle of Life. Think Ecosystems. Think We’re All Connected.
Honey bees are critical to the pollination of one-third of the food we eat. This means they aren’t only important; they’re NECESSARY.
So you’ve read this far and I appreciate you sticking with my science lesson. I was a middle school science teacher once upon a time so old habits die hard. But here’s where I get back to my original point. About money and politics and environmental disaster.
It turns out that we now have a pretty good idea why the honey bee populations are declining.
In light of the Wikileaks ordeal (which I happen to think is sort of fabulous), other government documents are being leaked as well. Fast Company wrote a great article about the latest leak: a memo from EPA scientists to the decision makers at the agency. The “memo” is actually over 100 pages long. I won’t force you to read it. Instead, I’ll paraphrase it for you and hope I don’t take too many liberties.
Here is some background info you need to know:
- Over the last three years more than one in three honey bee colonies has died nationwide, posing a serious risk to our natural food supply.
- One cause of these losses is an alarming phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, or “CCD.” When a hive experiences CCD, the honey bees mysteriously desert their hive and die. CCD symptoms have been reported by more than thirty-five states across the U.S. and in many other countries.
- Researchers do not know exactly what causes CCD, but they believe there may be many factors contributing to the problem, including viruses, mites, chemical exposure and poor nutrition.
- Clothianidin is an insecticide produced in the United States by Bayer AG.
- Clothianidin works by being absorbed by plants and then released in pollen and nectar to kill pests.
- As a result, it also harms helpful insects that are no danger to crops (e.g., honey bees)
- Because of the suspected link, clothianidin has been banned in Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia, all of which have experience rapid decline in honey bee populations.
- Clothianidin is approved for use in the United States.
In November 2010, EPA scientists submitted their opinion on the use of clothianidin as a result of a request by Bayer CropScience to gain approval for the use of the pesticide on cotton and mustard seeds. The memo revealed the following:
- “The major risk concerns are with aquatic free-swimming and benthic invertebrates, terrestrial invertebrates, birds, and mammals.”
- “Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees).”
- “Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis.”
- “A previous field study (MRID 46907801/46907802) investigated the effects of clothianidin on whole hive parameters and was classified as acceptable. However, after another review of this field study in light of additional information, deficiencies were identified that render the study supplemental.”
- “Exposure through contaminated pollen and nectar and potential toxic effects therefore remain an uncertainty for pollinators.”
- “The proposed application rates and uses also pose an acute and chronic risk to small birds and mammals…”
- “Both high and low efficiency incorporation resulted in acute risk to freshwater invertebrates in North Carolina and Mississippi cotton…”
I think you’re getting the picture. And could the document be a fake? Not in my opinion. Did I edit out crucial information to make my point? Nope. I used direct quotes and a link to the original document if you want to make sure you get the full context.
And if you are bored to tears with this, please, at least read my summary:
Our food supply is at risk because pesticides that our government approved are leading to increased toxicity and death of important parts of our ecosystem. After studies in Europe have shown a link between the use of this pesticide and honey bees, our government still approves the use of this pesticide. After EPA scientists stressed the huge risks and potential impacts to the use of this pesticide, our government still approves the use of this pesticide.
So why am I writing about it? I’m mad as hell. I’m tired of a government that is controlled by lobbyists who use money and influence to further their cause at any cost. And I just thought you should know.