Despite the abundance of scientific studies documenting the rapid and dangerous decline of pollinator populations, state and federal lawmakers have yet to pass any meaningful protections for bees.
The reason, according to the findings of a new investigation, is that pesticide giants such as Bayer, Monsanto, and Syngenta have deployed an aggressive lobbying campaign to dilute and suppress attempts to regulate their multi-billion dollar industry—with great success.
Published by environmental watchdog Friends of the Earth, the report (pdf) exposes "how the pesticide industry has weakened and delayed pesticide reforms and is shaping new pollinator 'protection' plans nationwide that do little to protect bees, but a lot to protect industry profits."
The agrochemical industry has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on state and federal lobbying efforts, which the report says have effectively pushed lawmakers to pass so-called "pollinator protection plans" that "lack metrics to measure effectiveness, improvement, or failure" and often "provide more protections for pesticides and pesticide users than for bee keepers and bee colonies."
What's more, the ever-present "revolving door" between the public and private sector has allowed the pesticide industry to "infiltrate" regulatory agencies. "In hundreds of documented cases, employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have shuffled between regulatory agencies and companies including Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto," the study notes.
The pesticide industry has peddled influence in other ways, as well. By cultivating strategic partnerships with public agencies and academic groups, and by funding science and education initiatives, Big Biotech supports research efforts that sow doubt about the extent of their products' toxic impact.
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"Pesticide companies are successfully pulling the wool over the eyes of our policy makers, which has resulted in a patchwork of initiatives by our state and federal government to that do little to curb or restrict pesticides," said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
"Our government is giving more weight to the pesticide industry than to protecting bees, beekeepers, our food supply and environment," Finck-Haynes added. "It is critical for policymakers to stand up for the long-term health of our food system, not the short-term profits of companies that manufacture a leading cause of bee declines."
To spread public awareness about how bee colony collapse is threatening the nation's food supply—and the role that chemicals play in their demise—a truck driven by Minnesota beekeeper James Cook is currently hauling 2.5 million dead bees across the country.
The Keep Hives Alive tour, organized by Friends of the Earth and other advocacy groups, will make stops in South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina before reaching its final destination in Washington D.C., for a rally outside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on June 22-23.
"It's far past time for the EPA to take urgent action to halt the use of bee-killing pesticides," said Jeff Anderson, owner of Minnesota Honey Farms. "We hope that this dramatic presentation will raise awareness of this urgent problem."