This month, we celebrate National Pollinator Week from June 16th – 22nd. The unanimous US Senate vote seven years ago instated an official week each year to reflect upon and take action to address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinators—bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, and others—are vital to our food supply and ecosystem and positively impact all of our lives. We can thank pollinators for every third bite of food we take.
Unfortunately, a mysterious phenomenon is posing a major threat to the food industry: Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The recent decline in honey bee populations is a devastating event attributed to CCD. In the US, over 25% of commercial honey bees have disappeared, sparking a scientific investigation into the drivers behind CCD. Emerging research on the impact of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids (neonics for short), on honey bees is creating cause for concern. Neonics are a relatively new family of pesticides that are sprayed on plants, coated on seeds prior to planting, and applied to soil. They are one of the most commonly used pesticides in the world; and while they are fairly new, since they are so widely used, they may have a much larger impact than expected.
The Harvard School of Public Health released a study this month suggesting that neonicotinoids may significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter because the bees abandon their hives and eventually die.The study replicated a 2012 finding from the same research group that found a link between low doses of neonics and CCD. According to a recent article by Earthjustice, one prevailing theory is that neonics damage, “the bees’ ability to find their way home; they simply get lost, run out of gas and die.” Harvard researchers are not the first to find a negative impact of neonics on bee colonies; the Amerian Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), reported similar results.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are increasing the use of toxic herbicides. Friends of the Earth and author Michele Simon recently released a new report called Follow the Honey which exposes how chemical pesticide companies are using the same PR tactics as previously used by tobacco. Another notable highlight in the report is that Monsanto—the number one GMO seed company in the world—has a lot of business at stake in the bee crisis because it sells seeds pre-treated with neonics. Friends of the Earth’s report states that Monsanto’s “Seeds and Genomics” segment netted $9.8 billion in sales in 2012. “In the US, roughly 90 percent of corn is treated with neonicotinoids. Monsanto promotes “Acceleron®” as a designer seed treatment for its genetically modified seeds — corn, soy and cotton.” It is too soon to tell if the Harvard study will lead to the ultimate demise of neonicotinoids; therefore, opponents of GMOs and toxic pesticides need to continue to advocate against their usage.
GMO Inside is taking a stand against chemical and GMO seed companies through corporate pressure campaigns. Currently, we are calling on General Mills to take the lead in the packaged-goods sector and move toward offering more sustainable products. In addition to removing GMO ingredients from Cheerios, we are asking General Mills CEO Ken Powell to make a long-term commitment to sourcing ingredients that reduce toxic pesticide usage; followed by putting out a call to suppliers to begin phasing out over the next five years the three most devastating pesticides for human and pollinator health, atrazine, neonicotinoids, and glyphosate. As growing evidence reveals the ecological and environmental harms of GMOs and related pesticides, and as a growing number of consumers become aware of the potential health risks, consumers will increasingly seek out products that are produced sustainably. General Mills would be wise to act now.
Keep an eye out for details on a national call-in day of action planned for Tuesday, June 17th.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Say No to Honey Nut GMOs and sign our petition!