It’s a familiar, yet still maddening scenario.
The public, as well as scientists, express legitimate concern about something. The US government reacts more or less by explaining that it will deliberate on potential courses of action once all the facts are responsibly gathered by experts from government-run agencies. Then and only then, will something possibly be done.
It seems Europe often does things a bit differently. The recent collapse of bee populations world-wide, and the question of what to do about it, offers a fresh example of this. In a May 28 online article, The Guardian (a UK newspaper) published this:
“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked to perform a risk assessment of the insecticide fipronil [by the European Commission], paying particular regard to the acute and chronic effects on colony survival and development and the effects of sub-lethal doses on bee mortality and behavior.”
The EFSA’s official statement about the result of the study was this:
“The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize.”
What’s particularly interesting is that Europe has acknowledged for years the scientific evidence which shows that pesticides are causing damage to bees and have acted swiftly and decisively on the matter. Science, plus huge public protests, ultimately culminated in the European Commission (EC) imposing a ban recently on three neonicotinoids, chemicals similar to fipronil. The assumption is that the EC will ban fipronil as well.
While it is obviously a good thing that Europe is taking steps to address the problem, Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, thinks even more should be done. According to The Guardian, Contiero said:
“These pesticides have been building up in our environment for a decade, so limited, temporary bans won’t be enough to give bees a breather. The commission should develop a comprehensive plan for the protection of insect pollinators, starting with a solid ban on fipronil and other bee-harming substances.”
So what sweeping, vigorous action has the US government taken? In the words of The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as reported by Food Safety News online, this is it:
“The forces impacting honeybee health are complex, and the USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge.”
They’ll be engaged in addressing this challenge. Which is to say that there will be no bans.
The Pesticide Action Network of North America, and the Center for Food Safety have both petitioned the EPA to place bans on these dangerous chemicals. Lawsuits against the EPA are pending, as well. Unfortunately, the odds are against the bees.