Bees are dying at alarming rates around the world. More than 30 scientific studies pinpoint the blame on neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been shown to affect bees’ nervous and immune systems. There are about 100 crop species that provide 90% of food globally. Of these, 71 are pollinated by bees. Which is why the United Nations voted to enact a two-year ban on the insecticides, a ban which will stay in place until (if) compelling evidence to the contrary, that is, evidence in favour of the insecticides, comes to light. While 15 of 27 members voted for the measure, Britain was amongst the 8 countries who voted against it.
Although there were scientific papers and opinions on both sides of the issue, a few months after the vote the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that:
EFSA has identified several weaknesses in [the study] which suggested that neonicotinoid pesticides do not have a major effect on bumble bee colonies under field conditions. Given these weaknesses, the Authority considers that the study does not affect the conclusions reached by EFSA regarding risks for bees related to the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid.
Earlier this year, four professional beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit against the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), blaming them for failing to protect bees against neonicotinoids:
The groups said they have obtained records that show several “legal violations” by EPA officials connected to the approvals for clothianidin and thiamethoxam products…The case also challenges the EPA's use of “conditional registrations,” which expedite the approval process for chemical companies seeking to bring new products to market. Since 2000, over two-thirds of pesticide products, including clothianidin and thiamethoxam, have been brought to market as conditional registrations, the groups said.
Our current agricultural system relies on these winged workers to sustain our existence. Therefore, our survival instinct must extend to their safety as well. There is an urgent need to understand how the many pressures faced by pollinators, (including habitat loss, climate change, pests and diseases and environmental chemicals) currently threatens their survival—and our own.