Apples, cucumbers, almonds and pears are just a small representation of food on the list of edibles humans can harvest as a result of pollination. Warnings of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the drastic decrease in the bee population have concerned farmers who grow crops that require pollination. In order to increase the size of the area bee population, farmers have shipped in healthy bees to replace those lost to disease.
Bee keepers too have been busy shoring up protective measures to ensure the health of their colonies. Providing supplementary food sources, ensuring water purity, and quarantining collapsing colonies from those that are stable are just a few of the proactive methods bee keepers have taken in the past. Recently, the insect minders have added another resource to their arsenal: litigation.
Representing bee keepers and other interest groups, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the EPA in order to require the agency to change the designation associated with neonicotinoids. This class of chemicals is considered an insecticide. The suit seeks to have the poison reclassified as a pesticide. When it is used as a spray on crops, it is regulated. When it is used to cover soy or cotton seeds prior to their planting, it is not. According to the EPA, the use of the chemical as a coating substance does not require regulation because it is used primarily to protect the seeds planted. As a result, vast quantities of the chemical enter the environment, contaminating the soil, insects and other plants.
Farmers favor seeds dosed with insecticides because the chemicals keep pests at bay. Problems arise when the treated seeds are planted because traces of the chemicals transfer to the dirt as the seed enters the earth. Any wind that accompanies the planting lifts the chemicals, causing them to travel to area farms and hives. We noted a similar phenomenon in a previous blog about the dicamba drift.
In filing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are endeavoring to protect the current bee population and future pollinators. According to the lead plaintiff, "In order for state regulators to be able to take action there has to be a label and then a violation of the label. If there was a label then it would give our regulators the ability to take corrective action when that actually occurs." Bee keepers fear the lack of a label prevents restrictions on future dosed seeds that can be brought to market.