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US Bee Colonies Devastated, Threatening Food Supply

A third of all honeybee colonies in the United States died last winter. This is a catastrophic rate of decline which, if it continues, will threaten the national food supply beginning within a few years. The rate of decline is roughly twice what the bee population can sustain. Last March, the California almond crop was threatened by a lack of bees for pollination. One third of all food consumed in the United States comes from plants that are pollinated by bees, and the failure of these food sources would lead to serious food shortages.

Colony Collapse Disorder has been implicated in the decline of the bee population, but the current losses are being caused by more than just that problem. The primary problem appears to be the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which were put on the market by Shell and Bayer. In January of 2013, the European Food Safety Commission said that the pesticide class posed an unacceptable risk to bees.

In March 2013, the American Bird Conservancy published a review of 200 studies on neonicotinoids including industry research obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act, calling for a ban on neonicotinoid use as seed treatments because of their toxicity to birds, aquatic invertebrates,
and other wildlife. Also in March 2013, the US EPA was sued by a coalition of beekeepers, as well as conservation and sustainable agriculture advocates who accused the agency of performing inadequate toxicity evaluations and allowing registration of the pesticides to stand on insufficient industry studies.

The pesticide industry is fighting hard to prevent neonicotinoids from being banned in the United States. On April 29, 2013, the European Union passed a two-year ban on neonicotinoid insecticides. No such ban is planned in the United States, and the FDA, back by the pesticide industry, is resisting further action.

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This ought to be seen as a national emergency.

The pear trees in my orchard have an average of about 8 or 9 pears per tree, instead of the hundreds they should have. The bees are gone.

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