Bees are one of the most important indicators of the health of our food supply. They’ve recently been under attack by a bevy of chemical pesticides, which cause bee colony collapse, confused bees which can’t make it back to the hive after foraging, and death. Luckily, a law was just passed in France to limit the use of two pesticides made by Dow, linked to bee decline.
The French court made a preliminary ruling in the city of Nice, that overturned a previous court decision by France’s health and environment agency ANSES in September to grant a permit for the Closer and Transform crop chemicals, which contain the insecticide sulfoxaflor.
ANSES’s authorization of the products gave Dow and other chemical makers carte blanche to use neonicotinoid family pesticides, which have been otherwise phased out in France because of a concern they were contributing to the decline of bee populations. In places outside of France, neonics, as they are called, have become the most widely used class of insecticides. They have been researched extensively and found to cause a wide range of damaging effects on bee and other pollinating insects.
Among the scientific findings are that neonics damage a bees’ central nervous system, make them more susceptible to disease, and can cause the entire bee colony to die off when the neonics are taken back to the hive after bees forage.
Critics of these studies say that there are other factors harming bees, but ne research has corroborated the dangers of neonics to bee colonies. Even if they do not eradicate bee colonies outright, they definitely add to their decline.
A U.S. appeals court, for example, also recently stated that the Environmental Protection Agency was wrong to allow Dow to use neonicotinoids where they could harm bee colonies. Critics of the EPA say that the agency has failed to really study the effects of pesticides like those which Dow manufactures, and the detrimental outcomes of their use. Just one of the chemicals used in Dow’s neonics is called sulfoxaflor, which is highly toxic to bees.
France’s ANSES has argued that while sulfoxaflor functioned in a similar way to neonicotinoids, it remains present in soils and plants for a much shorter time.
Nice’s ruling suspends the use of the products in France pending a court hearing to consider detailed arguments from Dow and environmental groups opposing the use of this harmful class of pesticides.
Dow AgroSciences SAS, a French subsidiary of the U.S. group, said it planned to appeal the ruling before France’s top administrative court.
“We find this ruling extremely surprising,” Benoit Dattin, communications manager at Dow AgroSciences, said.
“Our products have a very favorable toxicological profile. The problem is that certain associations have put our products in the same basket as neonicotinoids.”
Neonics aren’t just used in France, though. Sadly, Dow Chemical, which in September completed a merger with U.S. peer DuPont to become DowDuPont, said sulfoxaflor is used in more than 40 countries.
Recently, neonics were blamed for the death millions of bees in Canada (around 600 hives) after a large GMO cornfield was planted. It has yet to be determined if the bees were killed by the GM crops or the pesticides that were sprayed on them.
The pesticide used on the corn crops in Canada was also a neonic, developed by Bayer CropScience Inc. Like Dow Chemical’s insecticides, two of Bayer’s best-selling pesticides, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.
If France’s preliminary law is upheld, it could be saving at least as many bees from an untimely death caused by neonic use.
Image: Chicago Botanic