Harvard Study Strengthens Link between Pesticides and Colony Collapse Disorder
Three new studies released in the past two weeks, including one on April 5 by Harvard University, add to the growing body of evidence that implicate pesticides, specifically *neonicotinoids, as one of the most critical factors contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), bolstering the need for swift regulatory action. The research is timely as beekeepers and environmentalists recently filed an emergency legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for the suspension of clothianidin, a neonicotinoid pesticide currently under review by the agency. At a time when beekeepers are losing on average, more than one-third of their hives each year, pesticide manufacturers like Bayer are attacking the science in order to delay action by state and federal officials.
One of the new studies released in Science last week shows that sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposure disrupts honeybees' foraging and homing abilities. While another new study shows that environmentally relevant neonicotinoid exposure reduces queen fitness in bumblebees, causing an 85 percent reduction in the number of queens produced. In the Harvard study from the forthcoming issue of the Bulletin of Insectology, researchers found that 94 percent of the hives had died after exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide called imidacloprid at levels hypothesized by the study team to have been present in high fructose corn syrup since the introduction of neonicotinoids into corn seed treatments in 2004-2005.
These new studies come on the heels of a year of damning evidence for these pesticides: three separate studies in the last year confirmed that low-level exposures to neonicotinoids synergize with a common pathogen to dramatically increase bees' susceptibility to infection and the likelihood of death.
“The weight of the evidence is tipping for neonicotinoids as a critical factor in colony collapse disorder,” said Heather Pilatic, co-director of Pesticide Action Network. “While pesticides are not the only problem for honey bees, we know enough to act.”
Efforts at both the state and federal level to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid pesticides have faced strong opposition from pesticides manufacturers. Corporations like Bayer CropScience, the maker of many neonicotinoid products, have attempted to downplay the science and cast uncertainty on the growing number of studies, while calling for additional research.
“The industry is predictably pushing back by attacking the science,” said John Kepner, program director for Beyond Pesticides. “While we recognize the complexity of the science, we have sufficient scientific basis for taking immediate protective action.”
Nine years ago, scientists within the EPA required a field study examining the potential harms of the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin to non-target insects - specifically honey bees—because they had reason to believe the pesticide may harm pollinators. While all neonicotinoid pesticides are toxic to bees and have a similar mode of action, EPA had not previously required such a field study as part of its registration process. Under pressure from manufacturers like Bayer, EPA granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003. The registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has not been met.
In 2010 when it became clear that EPA considered Bayer’s field study to be flawed, beekeeper and environmental organizations wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging immediate action. The lack of agency response motivated the filing of the formal legal petition two weeks ago to suspend further use of clothianidin and adopt safeguards to ensure similar future pesticides are not approved by the agency. Beekeepers cite colony loses of at least 30 percent each year, costing rural agricultural economies millions of dollars.
“EPA should move swiftly to close the loophole and revoke the conditional registration of clothianidin,” said Peter Jenkins, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety. “Bees and beekeepers can’t afford to wait for more industry misinformation and agency inaction.”
Progress on protecting bees from neonicotinoids isn’t for lack of trying. California elected officials and rural groups for their part, recognizing the urgency, are calling on their state agencies to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. A bill on the subject will be taken up in the legislature early next month.
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*Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of systemic, neurotoxic pesticides that are known to be particularly toxic to honey bees and have rapidly taken over the global insecticide market since their introduction in the 1990s. Neonicotinoids (like imidacloprid and its successor product clothianidin) are used as seed treatments in hundreds of crops from corn to almonds, as well as in lawn care and flea products. These products persist for years in the soil, and, as systemics, permeate the plants to which they are applied to be expressed as pollen, nectar and guttation droplets (like pesticide dew). Honey bee exposure to this class of pesticides is widespread and in the U.S. the rate of seed treatment with these insecticides increased five-fold around the same time CCD hit the U.S.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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