If you beelieve Michelle Obama should stand up for bees by banning bee-killing pesticides from the White House garden, you were the target Monday of an online petition blasted out by Public Citizen that asked the first lady to set an example for the nation and urge the EPA and Congress to take action to protect bees and other pollinators.
Bees are dying at unprecedented levels, wrote Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, a progressive group long known for its opposition to big business policies that harm people and the environment. "Without immediate action, bee-pollinated foods, from apples to strawberries, will disappear from grocery stores shelves," he said.
As the nation’s first lady and gardener-in-chief, the petition asks Mrs. Obama to among other steps support the Save America’s Pollinators Act, introduced recently John Conyers (D, Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D, Ore.).
Maybe not by coincidence, but the August 19 edition of Time Magazine features a cover story by Bryan Walsh called "A World Without Bees: The price we'll pay if we don't figure out what's killing the honey bee."
"Mass deaths in bee colonies may mean disaster for farmers—and your favorite foods," Walsh writes. The crop featured in the article is almonds, a crop Walsh says is California's most valuable agricultural export, worth more than twice as much as the Golden State's iconic wine grapes. Almonds, totally dependent on honeybees, are a bellwether of the larger problem, namely, that without the honeybee, agriculture would bee permanently diminished, affecting fruits, vegetables as diverse as cantaloupes, cranberries and cucumbers. "Pollination can be a farmer's only chance to increase maximum yield," he writes.
One culprit contributing to a global bee-death epidemic called Colony Collapse Disorder, developed in the 1990s, are neonicotinoids, which may be safer for farmers are dangerous to bees because they attack the pollinator's nervous system, interfering with flying and navigation abilities without killing them immediately. The delayed but cumulative effect on the bees, according James Frazier, an entomologist at Penn State University, helps explain why colonies keep dying off year after year despite beekeepers' best efforts. "It's as if the bees were being poisoned very slowly, " Frazier told Walsh.
The article says observes that the beekeeping business may well beegin to resemble the industrial farming industry it works with: fewer beekeepers running larger operations that produce enough revenue to pay for the equipment and technologies needed to stay ahead of an increasingly hostile environment. "Bee may end up managed like cattle, pigs and chicken, where we put them in confinement and bring the food to them," says one independent researcher and beekeeper.
Public Citizen has beefriended Friends of the Earth to save the bees. They beelieve it’s looking more and more like toxic pesticides made by multinational chemical companies may bee to blame.
In the United States alone, a third of all agricultural crops are dependent on bee pollination, these groups say, adding, a whole host of foods will disappear from grocery store shelves.
Chemical giants like Bayer, Aventis and Syngenta are key contributors to the crisis, since they manufacture and market bee-killing pesticides that the European Union has already enacted a two-year ban on while here in the US the Environmental Protection Agency is delaying action for another five years. Five years could be too late, Weissman of Public Citizen declares.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture was contacted for comment but was unable to respond in time for this article. ODA's Apiary Program does say that honey bees have always played a vital role in agriculture and as such the department has overseen their inspection since House Bill 28 was approved on April 21, 1904.
The 108 year history, ODA notes, has evolved as agriculture has evolved and changed across the state. Honey bees not only provide honey but are a vital source of pollination for many of the fruit and vegetable crops grown in Ohio such as apples, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins. They are also used to pollinate seed crops such as sunflower and canola.
The Apiary Program coordinates the state and county inspection services that help to ensure a healthy beekeeping industry. In 2012, 4377 beekeepers registered in accordance with Ohio Revised Code section 909.02 which represents 6,963 apiaries, and an estimated 37,161 colonies.
The Apiary Program works with several national groups and the USDA in providing samples for the study of Colony Collapse Disorder which caused massive colony deaths in various parts of the nation, including Ohio.
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