Scientists report good news about the closing of the ozone hole at the South Pole. Fortunately the human species banned chlorofluorocarbons with the Montreal Protocol that was signed September 16, 1987, almost 30 years ago by 25 nations. Over 165 nations are now a party to the agreement. A couple of recent articles in this blog cite progress made by the US with China and India (see http://iamaguardian.com/1849/u-s-and-india-to-reduce-use-of-hydrofluorocarbons/ and http://iamaguardian.com/1542/the-more-we-understand-ozone-the-less-we-know/ ).
Susan Solomon of MIT led the team that evaluated the ozone hole in Septembers of multiple years. As reported by National Geographic in June of this year, “Solomon’s team found that, in recent years, the hole is not eclipsing the 12-million-square-kilometer threshold until later in the southern spring, which indicates that the September hole is shrinking. In fact, the researchers believe the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers. Furthermore, the hole is not as deep as it used to be.”
Human beings have used their chemicals and banned some of them to right ozone wrongs they committed. Can we, will we do it again to save the bees? Can we convince or mandate through law that select businesses will no longer use banned chemicals to hurt the bees? Can we ban or severely limit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides based upon the use of a chemical similar to nicotine)?
An article appeared in the New Scientist in July of 2016. It said, “Exposure to neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide widely used on crops, reduced the percentage of viable sperm in male honeybees (drones) and also shortened the insects’ lifespans, according to a study published today (July 27) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.” The study observes that the queens of the colony collect sperm from the drones and store it for future fertilization. If the sperm is bad the future reproduction is compromised.
Shell and Bayer both developed these insecticides. Chemical companies around the globe now sell them. In addition, as of 2011, Bayer, Syngenta, Sumitomo Chemical, Nippon Soda, and Mitsui Chemical made derivatives of these products. These products are now widely used for instance in the U.S. where they are used on 95% of corn and canola crops, most cotton, sorghum, sugar beats and about half of all soybeans. In addition they are used on the majority of all fruits, vegetables and nuts.
An article in Nature magazine was published online in August of this year said as follows, “In 2013, the European Union imposed a 2-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids to protect both domesticated and wild bees. This moratorium is scheduled to be formally reviewed in 2016, although exemptions to this ban have already been implemented in the UK.”
In addition the article continued, “Our results provide the first evidence that sub-lethal impacts of neonicotinoid exposure can be linked to large-scale population extinctions of wild bee species, with these effects being strongest for species that are known to forage on oilseed rape crops. These results support the findings of previous studies on commercially bred pollinators that have identified the underlying mechanisms affecting mortality. This study extends existing evidence from a limited number of model species to the wider community of bees found in agricultural landscapes. These findings provide an important contribution to the evidence base underpinning the current moratorium on the use of this insecticide in the European Union.”
In an article on this blog last year (see http://iamaguardian.com//?s=bees&x=0&y=0 ) we described the value of bees to all of us. We said, “Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying. Feral bees are the large majority of bees. They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting. Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.”
We continued, “This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon. These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon. Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.”
So the question is should we seriously restrict or ban entirely the neonicotinoid pesticides? Should this be another Montreal Protocol? Should we find the countries beyond the European Union to support a worldwide ban? The answer is yes!
We should begin our quest to save the bees and ourselves by banning production of the offending chemicals. We should write to our president or presidential candidates to have them initiate the international cooperation to save our bees and ourselves. We should insist that this effort be taken in our name to save the future agriculture needed to feed the world.
Use the following links to access additional information or articles used to prepare this article.