Maybe there is hope for the honeybee. Despite all the benefits it provides modern agriculture, it has been devasted by Colony Collapse Disorder. While multiple possible causes have been implicated, and it is likely due to a combination of them, the standout problem was identified several years ago. It is the widespread use of a new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. This is a persistent (long lasting), systemic (travels throughout a plant, including into pollen), and non-selective insecticide. In short, it takes no prisoners; any insect coming into contact with it is threatened.

European nations began outlawing this class of insecticide a few years ago. The EPA, unfortunately, always sensitive to the complaints of Big Ag, has been reticent to do anything. In short, this shifted from being a scientific problem to a political problem several years ago.

Finally, this problem is getting the attention it deserves, but only because the California almond crop (basically the U.S. almond crop) is severely threatened this year, due to a crippling shortage of bees used for pollination.

So, why am I hopeful? Because the New York Times has finally opined about this with a strong editorial, blasting the EPA for its tepid response to date. (As often happens with articles on agriculture, the Times doesn’t get the technical stuff right. Please ignore their confusion between “systemic” and “persistent”, two quite different characteristics of pesticides.)

Read more here.

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