Monday, July 16, 2012

Doc Review: Vanishing of the Bees (2009)

Most people don’t connect the flying furry insect to its pivotal role in food production. No bees, no honey, no beeswax, but no fruits and vegetables. “Vanishing of the Bees” (2009) is an in depth look at the phenomena of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a baffling condition that has been affecting bees worldwide for decades. Beekeepers have been noticing that their bee stocks have been literally disappearing without a trace: from a hive of thousands, they find only a few scattered corpses and even fewer remaining living bees. Two important points: first, scientists actually have discredited the notion that cell phones cause CCD (a notion that the media still seems to believe is true). Secondly, and most importantly, scientists now suspect (but cannot definitively prove) that systemic pesticides are a more likely cause of CCD. Have you heard of systemic pesticides?…Because in all my travels of environmental issues, this is the first instance where I learned of them… Unlike the “traditional” pesticides that are sprayed or otherwise applied directly to the grown plant (think crop dusters), systemic pesticides are applied to the seed and thus the plant repels pests from the inside out. The pesticide becomes part of the plant. With cutesy names like “Gaucho” and “Poncho” (manufactured by Bayer) these pesticides, while regulated by the EPA, are not tested by the EPA, which only requires the manufacturer to prove safety on their own. Currently there are no long-term studies on what the cumulative effects of these systemic pesticides.

Let that sink in. Most likely, every single day we are ingesting food that has been grown through these pesticides, with no warning labels or legal responsibility of the manufacturer to disclose what has been applied. Even if systemic pesticides do not cause instant death or symptoms, why do we blindly accept that there are no long term effects? If bee deaths continue, what will the future hold for food production?