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

New Jersey joins list of states acting to protect bees: Victory! | Kara Cook-Schultz

In January, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation to protect native bees and honeybees from pesticide exposure. The new bill requires people who spray pesticides to notify keepers of honeybees and native bees when they are applying pesticide within three miles of a registered beehive.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG/U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Bee-Killing Pesticides Found in Great Lakes Water

A recent scientific study found the presence of commonly-used pesticides known to harm bees ("neonicotinoids" or "neonics") in several Great Lakes waterways. This study shows we know very little about the effects of pesticides once released into the environment.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

New Report: Reaping What We Sow: How the Practices of Industrial Agriculture Put Our Health and Environment at Risk

 

U.S. agriculture is at a crossroads. While the nation’s agricultural system now produces more food than we can consume or than is good for us, we are squandering our resources, technology and taxpayer-funded investments on farming systems and practices that prioritize higher yields and profitability without regard to the impacts on the environment and public health, or to long-term agricultural productivity.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Reaping What We Sow

Shaped by modern technologies, financial influences and public policy, American agriculture has evolved into an efficient system that produces all the food the country needs and more. However, in addition to the benefits that our food system offers, the shift to larger and more specialized farms has damaged public health and the environment. This damage is avoidable. Now is the time to reform agricultural practices to better protect public health, the environment, and our future ability to grow food.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Carcinogens in our kids’ soccer fields? A local mom’s take | Dev Gowda

Leslie Billings, a Chicago mom, has been taking an active role in her community about the dangers of carcinogens in soccer fields’ artificial turf. CBS Chicago recently did a story featuring Leslie about parents investigating the safety of using tire materials in their kids' fields. Kids should be playing in safe and healthy environments, and parents shouldn’t have to worry about chemicals in the turf when they drop their kids off at soccer practice. Below is a snippet provided to me by Leslie:

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

More Than Half of Top 25 Restaurant Chains Commit to Responsible Antibiotics Use in Chicken, But Progress on Beef and Pork Still Lags

More than half of the top 25 chain restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, according to a new scorecard released today by a group of consumer, environmental and public health organizations. The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades the companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 restaurants have taken action, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

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ARKANSAS STATE PLANT BOARD VOTES TO PROTECT FARMERS FROM DICAMBA DRIFT

Yesterday, the Arkansas State Plant Board unanimously voted to ban the pesticide dicamba for the 2018 planting season. The decision was based on advice from a task force composed of scientists, farmers, and other experts. Arkansas came to the decision after a year of record crop losses caused by dicamba—during 2017, the state received more pesticide complaints than it ever has in one year.

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Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Report: EPA Considering Limiting Dicamba Herbicide, as More Farmers Report Crop Damage

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allegedly suggested on a phone call that the agency is considering limiting the spraying of the dicamba herbicide. U.S. PIRG is in support of any EPA policy proposal that would limit or ban the use of this pesticide.

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Statement on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

Statement from U.S. PIRG Toxics Advocate Dev Gowda on Unilever Starting to Disclose Fragrances via SmartLabel

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Weird Science

Genetic engineering is an imprecise and haphazard technology—something completely different from traditional plant breeding. Since the inception of the technology, biotechnology companies have clearly demonstrated that scientists cannot control where genes are inserted and cannot guarantee the resulting outcomes. Unexpected field results highlight the unpredictability of the science, yet combinations previously unimaginable are being field tested and used commercially.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Raising Risk 2003

There are many potential risks associated with the release of genetically engineered plants into the open environment. And if field experiments are not properly monitored, genetic pollution can result, putting farmers' livelihoods, public health and the environment at risk. Thus our environment is serving as the laboratory for widespread experimentation of genetically engineered organisms with profound risks that, once released, can never be recalled.

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Report | VPIRG | Public Health

Hidden Hazards

Polymer clays are a form of modeling clay that have become popular in recent years among children, adolescents and adult craftspeople. Unfortunately, these clays contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) mixed with phthalate plasticizers. While the phthalate plasticizers make the clay soft and workable, they are also associated with potential health risks. Phthalates as a class of chemicals have been implicated in birth defects, reproductive problems, nerve system damage and other negative health effects.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes in Genetically Engineered Foods

Many genetically engineered crops on the market currently contain antibiotic resistance marker genes because of the imprecision of the gene insertion process. Scientists use these genes to determine whether a gene has inserted itself into a target organism. As a result of incorporating these antibiotic resistance genes, these crops threaten the already growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which the world medical community acknowledges as a serious public health concern.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Raising Risk 2001

The science of genetic engineering, particularly as applied to agriculture, is radical and new. Contrary to popular belief, the technology is not very precise. As a result, genetic engineering raises a host of ecological and human health concerns that have not been adequately addressed. Despite this, on tens of thousands of acres across the United States, although the exact amount is not publicly available, experiments with genetically engineered crops are being conducted in the open environment with little oversight and public notification.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Darden Misses Opportunity to Show Leadership, Instead Hangs with the Laggards | Matt Wellington

Yesterday I was in Orlando, Florida to present a shareholder resolution on antibiotics to Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, Yard House and LongHorn Steakhouse, among other casual dining chains. I presented the resolution on behalf of Green Century Equity Fund and its investors. Darden corporate management was vehemently opposed to the resolution, which simply called for its chains to serve meat from farms that do not misuse antibiotics by routinely given them to livestock and poultry, even when the animals are not sick. It sounds like a no-brainer, and it should be.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Calling for Big Action on Antibiotics in the Big Apple | Steve Blackledge

Last week, we were in New York City, where the United Nations General Assembly spent an entire day discussing antibiotic resistance, “the biggest threat to modern medicine.” Experts estimate that more than 700,000 people worldwide die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, including 23,000 in the United States—a number that could grow to 10 million globally by 2050.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Petition: FDA Needs To Act On Antibiotics | Steve Blackledge

Today we joined NRDC in a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, challenging the agency to do what the law requires of it — protect the health of Americans from the misuse of antibiotics. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Back-to-School: Tips for toxic-free school supplies | Anna Low-Beer

Children are especially sensitive and susceptible to the dangers of toxic chemicals in our everyday products because they are still developing. As you take on back-to-school season, here are some tips on what to avoid and what to look for.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Eight is not Enough | Dev Gowda

Walmart announced that it will ask suppliers to remove eight chemicals of concern, including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, from household goods. This is an important step in the right direction, and yet Walmart and other large corporations still can do more.

> Keep Reading

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