Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides

A SMALL POLLINATOR, A BIG PROBLEM — Millions of bees are dying off every year, and scientists point to a widely used class of pesticides as one of the main causes. 

Our Food Supply Relies On Bees

We have to stop the bee die-off and help this vitally important species recover, for the sake of our food, the environment and our economy. 

Bees are dying in the United States and around the world, and it’s a major problem. We rely on bees to pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food. In the U.S. alone, honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops every year. 

We rely on bees to pollinate everything from strawberries to broccoli to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows. Imagine no almonds, less coffee and chocolate, fewer apples and strawberries, less ice cream and milk … the list goes on.

The bottom line: without bees, we don’t have food. 

OUR FAVORITE FOODS — Bees play an important role in pollinating some of our favorite foods, from strawberries and apples to almonds and coffee.

10,000 Times More Toxic To Bees Than DDT 

Scientists point to pesticides as one of the main factors causing bees to die off in alarming numbers, in particular a class of bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids (or neonics). 

When seeds are treated with neonics, the chemicals work their way into the pollen and nectar of the plants — which, of course, is bad news for bees and other pollinators. 

Worse, neonics are at least 5,000-10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT.

Just one example: After a nearby farm planted corn seeds coated with neonics in 2013, farmer Dave Schuit lost 37 million of his bees. “Once the corn started to get planted, our bees died by the millions,” said Schuit.

UNPRECEDENTED LOSSES — In recent years, beekeepers report they’re losing an average 30 percent of all honey bee colonies each winter, twice the amount considered sustainable.

We Can Eliminate These Pesticides

Given the consequences for our farms and our food, you’d think we’d be doing all we can to protect bees and other pollinators from neonics. 

Scientists say that we don’t even need to spray these chemicals, since we have commonsense alternatives like altering the time of planting and watering, and planting more native species.

Yet big agrichemical companies like Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Bayer and Syngenta are fighting to prevent bans. Syngenta has even asked federal regulators for permission to use even larger quantities of these pesticides — as much as 400 times more than currently allowed. 

Alarmed by the role these chemicals are playing in the decline of bee populations, the European Union has banned several of them; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has committed to phasing them out on the public lands they manage; and cities like Seattle and states like Maryland have taken action as well. 

Still, even with evidence showing that neonics need to be banned, we continue to spray about 46 million pounds of these pesticides on our homes, gardens and public spaces every year.

NO SAFE PLACE FOR A BEE TO EXIST — According to a recent study, about three quarters of all honey worldwide is contaminated with pesticides known to harm bees.

It’s Time For States To Take Action

For the past several years, PIRG and other groups have asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban these pesticides nationwide, and they have failed to do so. We’re not waiting on the EPA any longer. Now, to protect bees and our food supply, we're calling on states to act.

In order to restore bee populations to health and save our food supply, we need states to ban the sale of bee-killing pesticides for our homes, parks and gardens and ensure that they are not used on state property. 

If enough states take action, we will eliminate the use of more than 40 percent of insecticides used in this country. That’s a lot of bees that we can save — bees that will pollinate our food. 

That kind of collective action will be a strong signal to large chemical companies and the federal government that we want them to stop poisoning our parks, homes and food with these products.

Right now, we’re spraying chemicals that are known to kill bees just as we’re in the midst of an unsustainable die-off in bee populations. That has to change — now.

Join us in calling on your state to take action to protect bees and our food.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Public Health

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Overusing antibiotics on factory farms threatens public health — so why is it still happening?

News Release | US PIRG Education Fund

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