Italy bans the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees.
“Hey farmer, farmer, put away your DDT. I don’t care about spots on my apples. Just leave me the birds and the bees, please.” Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell
Did you see this little news item that ran back in May: “Italy Bans Pesticide for Bee Health”? I honestly thought at the time that it would generate more … um … buzz than it ultimately did in the media and among beekeepers, farmers, gardeners, nature lovers, as well as everyone else who likes to eat. I’m not surprised, though. We were likely all distracted by the 24/7 coverage of another end-of-times scenario playing out in slow motion in the Gulf of Mexico. It has lately been a very intense news cycle, and I guess colony collapse is so very 2006.
In case you missed it, it seems that last year as a “precautionary measure” the Italian Agriculture Department banned the use of nicotine-based pesticides (known as neonicotinoids) that coat or are infused into crop seeds – in particular corn, sunflower, rapeseed seeds — and their precautionary bet paid off. Bee populations were restored! There were no significant bee losses in the apiaries around the corn fields. In southern Italian citrus groves and vineyards where these neonicotinoids were not banned, bee losses continue unabated.
Okay, I think I’m with the Italians on this one. Let’s do it! What’s the harm in banning these pesticides in the United States (or even in just a state or two) and simply see what happens? To me, it’s not unlike those times my mom used to tell me to “Put a hat on or you’ll catch your death!” before I went out to play in the snow. I grumbled about it for sure, but a hat, too, was a precautionary measure. While not wearing a hat did not guarantee I’d catch pneumonia, there wasn’t any harm done by putting the hat on either. Anyway, grumbling or not, I didn’t win this argument too often … On the other hand, I never did catch pneumonia.
More support for banning neonicotinoids comes in the form of the documentary, “Nicotine Bees,” which explores the possibility that seeds coated with the pesticides might be, if not the main cause of CCD, that last straw that is breaking the proverbial camel’s back. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s on my viewing list. The Sierra Club has seen it, and is convinced, too. Late last year, they launched the Pollinator Protection Program to demand that the EPA ban neonicotinoids.
It’s true what they say, you know. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.