For a brief moment, the question on the tip of everybody’s lips was: Why are all of the bees dying? The answer, of course, was simple – it’s our fault. Neonicotinoids, the active chemical in most pesticides are not only fatal to pests that threaten farmer’s crops but also fatal to bees . . . go figure. While conservationists have been venomously condemning the pesticides responsible for the decimation of our planets bee population, most agricultural companies argue that these pesticides are a necessary facet of the growing process. But after the Center for Food Safety’s (CFS) most recent economic evaluation, big agriculture and conservationists may be on the same side of the issue.
Let’s Do the Math
The CFS released a study this month that definitively shows that the costs of using neonicotinoids outstrip the immediate and long-term costs of not using them. The first, and most obvious, cost is the financial expenditure of replacing all of the dead bees. Over a six-year period, neonicotinoids have destroyed over 10 million beehives, which cost an estimated two billion dollars – this is a loss of roughly 300 million dollars every year. But bees don’t only benefit beekeepers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S Department of Agriculture estimate that the pollination contributes 20-30 billion dollars in crop production every year.
On top of the financial detriments associated with the continued use of neonicotinoids, the chemical is not very effective at protecting the crops it’s sprayed on. The CFS points out that there have been, “numerous studies that show farmers’ yields for common crops do not increase with the use of [neonicotinoids].” The substance was banned in the EU in 2013 and they recorded no significant change in their agricultural output.
The study goes on to point out that the chemicals from these pesticides stay in the soil, get into the ground water, and float through the air. The chemical is destroying other beneficial predatory and parasitic insects that contribute 4.5 billion dollars of value to the agricultural industry and are extremely important to the maintenance of our ecosystem. Bees are also an essential part of a balanced ecosystem. They don’t just pollinate crops that give us food, they are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants. Their hives and honey also nourish countless species of wildlife.
A Simple Solution
After all of the facts have been presented, it’s impossible to deny the negative effects neonicotinoids have on the environment, the bee population, and the agricultural industry as a whole. And while large food producers, like General Mills, have started to make efforts to protect bees, the EPA still allows the use of neonicotinoids across America.
The CFS is pushing the EPA to reevaluate their policy towards these dangerous chemicals and learn more about this battle you can visit their website. We can also help to bolster the bee population by planting the right kinds of flowers in our gardens and on our windowsills. And when we shop, support farms that put organic produce on our shelves. Bee are important and we should fight to save them – just imagine a world without flowers … or produce.
Image source: Center for Food Safety