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Blockbuster Research: USDA Scientist Confirms Pesticides Can Kill Bees at Tiny Doses

Imidacloprid Implicated in ‘Smoking Gun’ Study


Congratulations to Michael McCarthy of The Independent for some great reporting last week that we just happened to catch today: Now it’s our job to spread the word.

In a nutshell the article states that the lead researcher for the USDA has known for two years that pesticides made from synthetic nicotines are harmful to bees — even at doses so low they cannot even be detected by normal scientific procedures.

The mind-boggling thing about the story is that the researcher, Jeffrey Pettis, broke the story to a documentary filmmaker rather than a government source. Pettis, who reportedly will speak directly with Grist on Monday, said his research was completed two years ago, but official publication of his findings has been stalled.

In an interview with SafeLawns nearly four years ago, Pettis said he doubted our theory that the synthetic nicotine pesticide known as imidacloprid was the cause of colony collapse disorder that has wiped out millions of colonies of bees in North America since 2006. Even as we fed the story to 60 Minutes, among others, in the past four years, the USDA has stood behind the pesticides’ manufacturer, Bayer, and said any studies were inconclusive.

“We’re just not finding imidacloprid in the hives,” Pettis told us in 2007.

In an interview in the European documentary The Strange Disappearance of the Honeybees, Pettis and his collaborator, Dennis van Engelsdorp, said they had changed their minds due to a study in which bees were fed microscopic does of imidacloprid and then purposedly infected with Nosema, a known bee pathogen. The Nosema virus had greater impact on the hives when the tiny amount of imidacloprid was present.

“The take-home message is that (pesticide) interactions may be the key,” said Pettis in the film. “Bee health is very complex and that these interactions are often overlooked and are hard to tease apart. So in this case we were manipulating one pesticide (Imidacloprid) and one pathogen (Nosema
Ceranae) and we clearly see the interaction.“

So will this finally be the study that pulls imidacloprid, clothiandin and other synthetic nicotines off the market? Since the study has yet to be published, the guess from here is that the pesticide industry will continue to bluster and the USDA and the rest of the federal government will continue to stall. We simply cannot let them, however.

This research is the smoking gun we’ve been waiting for. Spread the word!

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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