The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 16, 2010

Bee expert, chemical rep clash over pesticides

LEWISBURG — Honeybees will die in greater numbers this year than ever before, and court fights over the chemicals some believe are killing them will continue to be a cat-and-mouse game.

That’s the opinion of Lewisburg beekeeper Dave Hackenberg, who last week was in Orlando, Fla., at the North American Beekeeping Conference with about 750 of his peers.

He’s considered by many of them, and others worldwide, as the authority on colony collapse syndrome.

That’s when an entire hive of bees dies for no apparent reason. It’s been happening since 2004, coinciding with introduction of a new kind of pesticide.

Instead of being applied on the exterior of a mature plant, the plant’s seed is coated with the pesticide, Hackenberg said. When the seed is watered, some of the pesticide gets into the soil and then is taken up into the plant in the normal growth process, just as the plant absorbs nutrients from the soil.

In this way, the pesticide becomes internal, or “systemic,” rather than applied.

Some beekeepers believe, as bees pollinate the plants, they are exposed to these pesticides and it eventually kills them.

Manufacturers of the chemicals say they are safe.

The argument played out in federal court Dec. 23 in New York in a suit brought by the National Resource Defense Council and the United States Department of Environmental Protection against Bayer CropScience.

Judge Denise Cote originally ruled that a pesticide with the active ingredient spirotetramat, manufactured by Bayer worldwide under the name Movento, must have been pulled from the market by Friday. But Bayer came back arguing the ban was based on procedure rather than science and got an extension to Feb. 16 to straighten out the paperwork with the EPA.

“We anticipate that EPA will reaffirm the registration of spirotetramat using the correct procedure,” Bayer said in a statement.

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