Bayer Pesticides Kill Bees
By Yvette Cabrera and Katie Brimm
“Bayer is killing bees, bring them to their knees!” buzzed our group of around 90 protesters dressed as bees and beekeepers as we marched from San Pablo Park to the East Bay headquarters of the international corporation, Bayer, to honor them with the satirical Poison Heart Award, for their outstanding role in global bee population decline. East Bay’s Taking Back Our Food System organized the march and demonstration. And while many marchers are not directly involved with the Occupy movement, they are united over the common belief that our bees must be saved as many fruits and vegetables depend on bees for pollination.
Bee populations have been steadily declining for the past couple of decades and many scientists have attributed it to the increased use of pesticides in industrial agriculture. This trend is worrying because it not only endangers the livelihoods of thousands of beekeepers and small farmers, but puts the future of our global food system at risk. Honey bees pollinate 71 of the 100 most common crops, accounting for 90% of the world’s food supply. Managed honey bees are the most economically important pollinator. In fact more than one in every three bites of food we eat depends on honey bees for pollination . Some scientists have even narrowed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), described as “the mysterious and massive die-off of bees across North America and Europe,” to the use of a specific pesticide that is manufactured by Bayer’s clothianidin and imidacloprid, first-generation neonicotinoids .
Bayer is not just the innocent aspiring manufacturer making aspirin.; They are one of the largest manufacturers of pesticides in the U.S. and around the world, along with other infamous companies such as Monsanto and Dow.
So how do neonicotinoids kill bees? Scientists have disclosed that neonicotinoids disrupt insects’ central nervous systems,” and “spread through the vascular tissues of plants.” This is most disturbing because once the pesticides spread they are “toxic through entire growing seasons, including flowering times when bees consume their pollen.” As pesticides infiltrate the bees’ central nervous system, their learning and navigational abilities are disrupted. This also makes them susceptible to certain parasites. Essentially, the pesticides fog up the bees’ brain and make it difficult for them to find their way back to the hive. Even If they are successful in making it back to the hive though, it is most likely that the pollen that the bee has extracted and brought back is infected with neonicotinoids, meaning the rest of the colony will be affected resulting in complete collapse of that bee colony.
Today pesticides are a prevalent part of the food and agricultural system, especially in the US. According to Pesticide Action Network (PANNA), 1,200 different pesticide active ingredients are approved and in use in 18,000 different product combinations. By contrast, France and Britain have registered around 500 and 300, respectively. Mixtures of these chemical cocktails not only infiltrate the bees’ nervous system, but are stored in their wax and pollen, in the soil, and in water droplets exuded by trees, and even in nearby untreated land. This phenomenon creates a dangerous world of chemical exposure not only for the bees, but for humans, frogs, bats, and a wealth of other plants and animals that contribute to the health and biodiversity of our natural environment.
While Bayer scientists have continuously reported that there is no evidence that links neonicotinoids to the depletion of the bee population, there have been independent scientific studies conducted around the world that prove otherwise. On Wednesday, May 16 the Taking Back Our Food System protesters sent a message to BAYER to stop manufacturing these pesticides because without bees, there are no farms, which means there is no food. So, while the protesters may have looked a little crazy buzzing through the streets of Berkeley, they did it and will continue doing it because bees are crucial to the survival of the human population, and it’s essential to protect them so that then can do their jobs, and we can continue to eat a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables.