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Pollinators Need Protection from Pesticides
(Beyond Pesticides, July 4-7, 2003) With the summer heating up and the pesticide sprayers out in full force fighting the never-ending battle against mosquitoes and lawn and agricultural pests, we cringe at the thought of what these chemicals are doing to our families and neighbors. But there is another susceptible population that we need to protect: bees and other animals that pollinate the plants that we and other species eat. According to Ohio State University, over 75 commonly used pesticides are highly or moderately toxic to bees. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at least one-third of agricultural crops depend on bees and other animals for pollination.

FAO describes the assumption that pollination is a "free ecological service" provided by nature as "erroneous." Effective pollination requires resources such as refuges of pristine natural vegetation and suitable habitat for pollinators. Where these are reduced or lost, pollinators are becoming limited and adaptive management practices are required to sustain their livelihoods. In fact, throughout the world, agricultural production and agro-ecosystem diversity are threatened by declining populations of pollinators. For example, in 1994 California almond producers were forced to import honey bees from other states to ensure that their crop was pollinated. The major contributors to the problem are considered to be habitat fragmentation, agricultural and industrial chemicals, parasites and diseases, and the introduction of alien species.

In June 2001, Beyond Pesticides Daily News reported that environmental biologist Peter Kevan, a professor from the University of Guelph in Canada, discovered that, due in part to pesticide use, there is a growing global scarcity of bees and insects, the pollinators required to produce the world's food supply. According to Dr. Kevan, the world's pollinator shortage is the result of a series of complicated factors that go beyond a simple lack of bees, but that is where the problem starts. "The changes in agricultural styles, chemicals and pesticides have taken a tremendous toll," explains Dr. Kevan. "And even if the pollinators survive, there are fewer and fewer places for them to live. Most of their natural places - holes, logs - have been cleaned up. Their natural habitat was gone a long time ago."

French journalist Michel Dogna recently wrote about the situation of declining pollinators in Europe, blaming much of the problem on imidacloprid, manufactured by the Bayer Corporation and sold to farmers to coat the seeds and to protect them from certain diseases. According to Mr. Dogna, imidacloprid paralyzes the insects, which cannot join the hive and therefore die. If they do succeed, the honey that results from it is toxic. In less than three years, 450,000 hives were thus lost and the production of honey fell from 45,000 tons to 25,000 tons in France alone. In Alsace, the bee-keepers are regarded as disaster victims because of the Bayer products.

Gary Paul Nabhan, director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University and Co-author of The Forgotten Pollinators, puts the issue in perspective by stressing the importance of interactions and relationships between species in our environment. "We tend to think and grieve a lot about endangered species, but endangered interactions, endangered relationships, are just as important, but harder to visualize. They remind us that every single one of our lives is dependent on other lives around us."

According to Ohio State University, the following pesticides are highly toxic to bees: 2,4-D (Weed-B-Gone), abamectin (Zephyr), acephate (Orthene), azinphos-methyl (Guthion), bifenthrin (Capture), carbaryl (Sevin), carbosulfan (Advantage), chlormephos (Dotan), chlorpyrifos (Lorsban, Dursban), cyfluthrin (Baythroid), d-phenothrin (Sumithrin), demeton-s-methyl (Metasystox (i), (50-% Premix), diazinon (Spectracide), dichlorvos (DDVP), dicrotophos (Bibrin), dimethoate (Cygon, De-Fend), esfenvalerate (Asana XL), ethion (tech), (Ethanox), etrimfos (Ekamet), fenitrothion (Sumithion), fenpropathrin (Farmatox), fensulfothion (Dasanit), fenthion (Baytex), fenvalerate (DMSO), (Belmark), flucythrinate (Pay-Off), fonofos (Dyfonate), heptachlor (Fennotox), lindane (Lindane), malathion (Malathion 50, Malathion ULV), methamidophos (Monitor, Tamaron), methidathion (Supracide), methiocarb (Mesurol), methyl parathion (Penncap-M), mevinphos (Phosdrin), monocrotophos (Azodrin), naled (Dibrom), omethoate (Folimat), oxydemethon-methyl (Metasystox-R), oxydisulfoton (Disyston S), parathion (Bladan), permethrin (Ambush, Pounce), phosmet (Imidan), phosphamidon (Dimecron), propoxur (Baygon), pyrazophos (Afugan), resmethrin (Chrysron), tetrachlorvinphos (Gardona), and tralomethrin (Scout X-TRA). The following are moderately toxic: Acetochlor (Acenit), Aclonifen (Challenge), allethrin (Pynamin), alphacypermethrin (Fastac), ametryn(Evik), bromopropylate (Acarol), cinmethylin (Argold), crotoxyphos (Ciodrin, Decrotox), DCPA (Dacthal), diphenamid (Dymid), disulfoton (DiSyston, Ekanon), endosulfan (Thiodan), endrin (Hexadrin), ethoprop (Mocap), flufenoxuron (Cascade), fluvalinate (tau-fluvalinate), (Mavrik, Spur), formetanate hydrochloride (Carzol), mancozeb (Manzate, Dithane, Fore), methanearsonic acid (MAA), neburon (Granurex, Propuron), pebulate (Tillam), phorate (Geomet, Thimet), pirimiphos-methyl (Acetellic), sethoxydim (Poast), sulfosate (Touchdown), terbufos (Counter), thiocyclam hydrogen oxalate (Evisect), thiodicarb (Larvin, Nivral), and triforine (Denarin, Funginex).