Last week was National Pollinator Week, a United States Department of Agriculture program to celebrate the creatures who help ensure that we have fruits and vegetables to eat, trees to shade us, and flowers to enjoy. This week, ironically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may decide to reapprove clothianidin, a widely-used pesticide that kills bees. The Pesticide Action Network North America and CREDO Action are calling on all bee advocates to sign a petition asking the EPA to ban clothianidin use until comprehensive safety studies are complete.
The EPA conditionally approved clothianidin for use on corn and canola 10 years ago despite its concerns about its toxicity. In EPA’s original 2003 fact sheet, it noted that clothianidin has the potential to poison song birds, small mammals and pollinators as well as our groundwater, streams, and lakes. The EPA’s most recent assessment confirms that clothianidin stays in theenvironment for a long time (up to three years) and is poisonous to aquatic creatures, birds, small mammals and bees, yet it has been approved for even wider use – fruit trees, vegetables, flowering landscape plants, turf and cotton. The EPA justified its use because clothianidin is less toxic to humans than other popular pesticides.
Clothianidin currently is used most heavily on corn according to the EPA. With more than a million acres of corn planted in New York state, and nearly all of it being treated with clothianidin, our bees are being exposed to an estimated 2-4 tons of this nasty stuff each year. Experts at Iowa State and Purdue universities state that the manufacturers' instructions say one kernel of corn treated contains enough clothianidin to kill more than 80,000 honey bees. Luckily, bees don’t eat corn, but they are exposed to clothianidin because it gets into the pollen as the corn grows. The corn pollen doesn’t contain enough of the poison to kill bees immediately, but there is enough to make them sick. Clothianidin is a nicotine-like substance (neonicotinoid) that interferes with the nervous system. Even at low doses, it can cause bees to have trouble flying, collecting food, getting back to the hive, and communicating. Neonicotinoids also can adversely affect bee immune function and development. Because clothianidin is so long lasting, it spells long-term trouble for bees. For an overview of research findings, read a report from the Pesticide Action Network North America.
According to its work plan for reviewing clothianidin, the EPA will further evaluate risks to birds, bees and other pollinators, water quality and humans. CREDO Action and the Pesticide Action Network North America are asking the EPA to ban clothianidin use until the review is complete. Please sign this petition if you support the ban.