Advocating for a ban on toxic pesticides that have led to massive bee die-offs nationwide, a truck filled with millions of the dead pollinators has trundled across the country to reach its final destination on Wednesday afternoon: the front steps of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"If we stop keeping bees, who's going to pollinate your fruits and vegetables? This can't go on."
Central Maryland Beekeepers Association
The truck's arrival at EPA headquarters heralds a rally in which environmental groups, beekeepers, organic food advocates and others will "deliver over 4 million signatures urging an immediate ban on bee-killing pesticides" to the agency, writes the conservation group Friends of the Earth.
"Bees pollinate most of the world’s most common crops, including summer favorites like peaches and watermelon," said Environment America in a press statement. "But over 40 percent of U.S. honeybee hives die each year, costing the farming and beekeeping industry more than $2 billion annually."
As Scott Nash, CEO of Mom's Organic, said in a statement, "What's happening today to pollinators is no different than what happened 50 years ago with the collapse of the osprey, bald eagle, and other bird and aquatic animal populations due to the use of DDT. If we allow the chemical agribusiness industry to continue these short-sighted practices, food costs will increase as food supplies diminish."
"In the five years since I started keeping bees, I've seen many hives killed by pesticides," added James Cook, a Minnesota-based beekeeper who has been driving the truck across the country since last Monday. "If some fundamental things don't change, it's going to be really hard for beekeepers to adapt to the environment around us."
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As the crisis stretches on, studies continue to show that the so-called neonicotinoid class of pesticides, or neonics, are a major contributing factor to bee population decline, as Common Dreams has reported. (Pesticide giants have lobbied heavily against any regulations of their multi-billion dollar industry.)
And despite "a process to assess four types of neonics and their impacts on pollinators" the EPA launched a year ago, and an agency study that in January confirmed the link between one variety of neonics and widespread bee deaths, further agency assessments of what critics describe as bee-toxic pesticides—and in turn, action—are still outstanding.
Yet the bees—and their keepers—don't have any time to lose.
"We have so many losses it's worse than break-even. It is getting harder and harder to keep bees and make a living," said Roger Williams, president of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association. "And if we stop keeping bees, who's going to pollinate your fruits and vegetables? This can't go on."
Rally participants documented the event on Twitter under the hashtag #keepthehivesalive: