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Harvard study finds common pesticide kills bees
April 06, 2012 By David Abel
A common pesticide used increasingly in recent years for crops such as corn and soybeans is the probable culprit in the destruction of honeybee colonies around the world, a study released Thursday by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health has found.
The researchers said they found convincing evidence of the link between the pesticide known as imidacloprid and honeybees abandoning their hives, or colony collapse disorder, which they say began occurring in 2006 on a scale and scope never seen before in the history of the beekeeping industry.
Bees pollinate about one-third of crops in the United States, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and livestock feed. A widespread loss of bees could be devastating to the nation’s agriculture.
“The significance of bees to agriculture cannot be underestimated,’’ said Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health, who estimated bees account for about $15 billion in revenue for the agricultural industry.
“It apparently doesn’t take much of the pesticide to affect the bees,’’ Lu said. “Our experiment included pesticide amounts below what is normally present in the environment.’’
Before 2006, the typical bee colony collapse was between 25 and 30 percent; that figure has doubled since then, said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist of the Organic Center in Boulder, Colo., and former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Agriculture.
Bees are exposed to the pesticide through nectar from plants or through high-fructose corn syrup, which beekeepers use to feed their bees, the researchers said. Corn grown in the United States has been treated with imidacloprid since 2005.
But officials at Bayer, the German chemical and pharmaceutical company that produces more of the pesticide than any other company in the world, said that the study was flawed and that its findings should be disregarded.
They said imidacloprid is used only on a small amount of the nation’s crops, although they could not provide specific figures, and argued the doses used in Lu’s study were excessive.
“It’s a very effective and safe insecticide, much safer than the products it replaced,’’ said David Fischer, director of environmental toxicology and risk assessment at Bayer CropScience, who said the product has been sold since 1994. “All they have shown is if you feed massive amounts of a toxic insecticide to bees that you can cause mortality.’’ Continue here.
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MORE INFO HERE from Scientific American