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What chemicals are sprayed on local almonds?

You may wish to check out the April 20, 2014 Sacramento Bee article by Edward Ortiz, "Beekeepers search for answers as colonies show up damaged after almond farm pollination," because it's an eye-opener as to what pesticides are being sprayed on your almonds (unless you're buying the more expensive organic almonds).

What chemicals are sprayed on local almonds?
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The chemicals sprayed on your almonds, for which you could be paying around $10 a pound include one or a mix of pesticides – which can include clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – and some growers now are applying two new products, tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole. These are chemicals that numerous almond growers typically apply, explains the Sacrament Bee article. Even organic almonds are treated by a variety of means when they are marked as organic raw almonds.

You may wish to check out the article, "USDA Says "Raw" Almonds, Including Organic, Must Soon be Steam-Heated or Treated with Toxic Chemical." Click here to read a comprehensive fact sheet on the almond issue. And a sample letter for concerned individuals to send to the USDA has also been prepared by The Cornucopia Institute.

The only exemption to these new regulations will be organic "raw" almonds that will not be fumigated, but will undergo the steam-heat treatment, and small-scale growers who can sell truly raw almonds but only direct to the public from farm stands, says that article. The goal is to prevent salmonella bacteria contamination.

Let's say you're a almond grower required to sterilize almonds

The most common method of sterilizing almonds is by propylene oxide fumigation. Propylene oxide is a genotoxic chemical and is listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency on Cancer Research.

In lab experiments, the chemical leads to gene mutation, DNA strand breaks, and neoplastic cell transformation. It is listed as a "possible" carcinogen because no long-term studies have been done with humans. Its use for treating food for human consumption is banned in the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and most other countries, explains the article, "USDA Says "Raw" Almonds, Including Organic, Must Soon be Steam-Heated or Treated with Toxic Chemical."

What about the almonds you buy in most food stores not marked organic? Not only are you getting many or all of these pesticides in your body, but here near Sacramento, in the San Joaquin Valley, as many as 80,000 bee colonies have died or been damaged this year after pollinating almond trees. Numerous local beekeepers are pointing to pesticides used on almond orchards as a possible cause.

There's also a problem with the collapse of the bee colonies

Bees are fleeing their hives after pollination. When the beekeepers open the hives, there aren't any bees in them. The bees disappear. Why it's an agricultural problem is that 90% of honeybees pollinating US crops, not just making honey, are used during this season which is known as the California almond bloom.

Crops are affected. Without the bees around to pollinate almond trees in the local areas here in California, including the Sacramento region and San Joaquin Valley farming areas, the bees also pollinate trees that grow apples, cranberries, cherries, and watermelons. The point is the bees are needed to pollinate a lot of other crops.

Currently, a lot of hives are damaged this year. Is there a brood die-off? It's random at present. Some local farmers keep thousands of bee colonies around to pollinate trees at various almond farms, including those near Sacramento in Newcastle. In other areas, entire bee colonies are damaged or destroyed.

Do you know how many bees it takes to pollinate here in California?

Just for almond tree pollination, the use of 1.6 million bee colonies are used. But the bees have to come from other states because of the problem with the bees disappearing or dying locally. Currently, almost all bee colonies are brought in from other states by an army of 1,300 commercial beekeepers, according to the Sacramento Bee article.

That means, even if you're vegan and don't eat honey because it's made by bees, you need to have the bees around the pollinate other crops of vegetables and fruits. You see a problem here in the Sacramento area and Central Valley where three quarters of bee hives showed damage, according to the Sacramento Bee article. What's damaging the hives and destroying the bees?

Could it be the chemicals in the insecticides and pesticides? You can check out damage statistics at the the Pollinator Stewardship Council website. The Council is an advocacy group for beekeepers.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council believes that pollinators are an important part of agricultural and other ecosystems that should be protected from harm caused by pesticide use. Within this context, the Council also believes that farmers should be able to protect their crops from pests and use pesticides to do so.

Coexistence of farming with pollinators is key to the survival of a vibrant agricultural economy

The Council's work is guided by the belief that pesticides should be regulated by US EPA in a way that prevents harm to managed and native pollinators, by ensuring that pesticide labels effectively prevent poisonings, pesticide applicators are well-informed and trained in pest control methods that prevent pollinator poisoning incidents, and State Lead Agencies take full responsibility for their enforcement duties.

When pollinator poisoning incidents do occur, the Council believes that the State Lead Agencies charged with enforcing the law should act expeditiously to fully investigate each incident, document the incident in a traceable manner, file a comprehensive report of the incident with US EPA, and take corrective action to avert future poisoning incidents, explains the Council's website.

The problem of tank mixing of insecticides

You also could check out the website of the "US EPA Office of Pesticide Programs - Pesticides | US EPA that looks at the practice of almond growers engaging in “tank mixing” of insecticides. Or see, "EPA: Pesticides - Publications from the Office of Pesticide Programs."

The big picture is whether insecticides are causing damage to bee hives. One big problem is the practice of applying insecticides during the early daytime hours when bees are foraging. There's no law that tells almond growers what time to spray their insecticides or fungicides.

So if it's sprayed during the hours when the bees are looking for food, that's a big problem when chemicals are sprayed at the same time of the almond bloom or the bloom of fruit trees. At bloom time, the bees are in their cycle of pollinating the almond trees and other types of trees such as apple, cherry, and various fruits. The chemicals get into the pollen and into the bees at that time.

For more information, check out the website of the Almond Board of California. According to the board, spraying would be recommended only at midafternoon and in the evening. Then again, those more expensive organic almonds don't have to have all those chemicals sprayed on them, but they still get treated. See, "Trying to avoid almonds that are 'gassed'? Here's a little guide" and "Your Raw Almonds Aren't Raw | Girl Meets Nourishment." Or check out the website, "Is There Engine Fuel on Your Almonds? Read This. - Whole New Mom."

Some pesticides used by growers do not have explicit label warnings about their possible effects on bees

You find some pesticides toxic to baby bees but not adult bees. You could look over some of the EPA assessments on toxicity to bees. But the chemicals can be toxic to the young bees. The damaged hives are damaged for a reason. Bees live in a colony, and some chemicals are more toxic to the youngest bees.

When you look over pesticide labels, they discuss mixing. But if you look at various fungicides, what does it say about mixing for almond growers? Not much, according to the Sacramento Bee article.

All you have to do is read the labels to get an idea of what the mixing directions tell people to do

Almond farmers are looking for instructions on labels that focus on what happens to bees from pesticides, and not just adult bees, but baby bees as well as the entire bee colony. For more information, you could check out the website of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Their mission is to protect human health and the environment by regulating pesticide sales and use, and by fostering reduced-risk pest management. But growers are still mixing pesticides/insecticides in a thank. At this time, there isn't any specific rule prohibiting tank mixes – unless the pesticide label states such. Now the issue is to find out which labels prohibit mixing of chemicals.

As more growers mix those chemicals in their tanks and spray away on the trees to get rid of fungi or insects, the chemicals contaminate the entire bee colony of new and adult bees. The contaminated pollen is brought into the hive. Would you want to eat fruit or nuts made with chemical-contaminated pollen? The bees wouldn't either.

Meanwhile the bees are being destroyed or somehow disappearing, and the hives damaged. If you take a look at the April 20, 2014 Sacramento Bee article on the damaged hives, by Edward Ortiz, "Beekeepers search for answers as colonies show up damaged after almond farm pollination," you'll notice that the article mentions a 10 percent damage rate among the 9,000 colonies she brokered and placed on almond farms for pollinating.

The price tag for replacing that many bees: $180,000, notes that article. Multiply that with what's happening outside of Northern California. Whose job is to pollinate the nut and fruit trees? Bees? Or who else is going to do that, robots?

A fascinating book on what happens when smoking and an unhealthy diet meet certain genes

On another note, when it comes to diet and health, if you check out the book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey by Cheney, Dick and Reiner, Jonathan (Oct 22, 2013), you can read about the smoking habits and the type of food eaten by Dick Cheney.

For as long as he has served at the highest levels of business and government, Vice President Dick Cheney has also been one of the world’s most prominent heart patients. Now, for the first time ever, Cheney, together with his longtime cardiologist, Jonathan Reiner, MD, shares the very personal story of his courageous thirty-five-year battle with heart disease, from his first heart attack in 1978 to the heart transplant he received in 2012.

In 1978, when Cheney suffered his first heart attack, he received essentially the same treatment President Eisenhower had had in 1955. Since then, cardiac medicine has been revolutionized, and Cheney has benefitted from nearly every medical breakthrough. At each juncture, when Cheney faced a new health challenge, the technology was one step ahead of his disease. Cheney’s story is in many ways the story of the evolution of modern cardiac care, notes the review section about Cheney's book.

Interestingly the May 2014 issue of Life Extension magazine has a book review on page 97 of the publication regarding Dick Cheney's book. The former Vice-President discusses how his smoking and eating habits lead to his heart disease. The book is written with Jonathan Reiner, MD. If you read the work, it chronicles Cheney's 40-year struggle with heart disease and the innovations of modern medicine, such as his heart transplant.

Could a different diet and no smoking have changed his journey? He had the benefit of being able to afford the finest conventional medical healthcare. But did anyone ever motivate him to eat a diet other than the one he chose, and would it have helped? That's what many people wonder about. See, "."

When he suffered his first heart attack in 1978, Cheney received essentially the same treatment as President Eisenhower did after his heart attack in 1955. Since then, coronary care has undergone revolutionary changes. The story of these changes is told through the chronicle of Cheney’s own heart disease and the treatments he received, notes the book review, "Richard Cheney, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey."

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