Tuesday Deadline Looming for Comments on Bee Crisis

Bees pollinate at least a third of the U.S. food supply, yet the EPA is failing miserably in its regulation of pesticides known to be lethal to the bees.


With a deadline of September 25 looming, environmental groups nationwide are calling on all Americans to make their voices heard in the ongoing bee crisis known as colony collapse disorder. The future of the food supply, according to many scientists and beekeepers, hangs in the balance.

The Environmental Protection agency will cease accepting public comments at the end of the day next Tuesday prior to making its final determination on a chemical compound known as clothianidin — which is in the class of pesticides known as synthetic nicotines. All these “nicotinoid” pesticides are known to cause bee deaths, yet clothianidin has gained special attention because it was shown to be registered illegally in 2003.

Under immense pressure from the synthetic chemical industry, the EPA has shown no inclination thus far to take clothianidin or similar compounds off the market. Advocates sent more than a million signatures to the agency earlier this year to demand clothianidin be banned, yet were once again rebuffed.


An excellent new video, titled “Killing Bees: Are Government and Industry Reponsible?”, spells out the issues involved with colony collapse disorder. HERE’S THE LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i97o0slqv-s. Please circulate it broadly to anyone who might be willing to watch, understand the issues, and then send a comment to the EPA at this site: http://www.regulations.gov/#%21submitComment;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0334-0015.

Comments expressing concern are useful; comments citing specific scientific evidence will be the most compelling. Here are a few links worth reviewing:





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The Marblehead Organic Lawn Videos: The Ones the Chemical Industry Never Wanted Anyone to See

Chip Osborne, left, has made a career out of teaching other municipalities how to follow the example of his hometown, Marblehead, Mass.


It was, nearly a decade ago, one of the transformative moments in my personal career as an organic lawn care advocate. When the crew for our HGTV television show, People, Places Plants, visited Marblehead, Mass., to profile the coastal town’s transformation to organic lawn care on all publicly owned property, it appeared to be the grand opportunity we were waiting for to spread the word far and wide.

Folks would watch the two episodes about Marblehead’s Living Lawn program and they’d then decide to take similar action in their own towns, on their own lawns. The anti-pesticide movement that began in Hudson, Quebec, back in the 1980s would finally take hold here. That was our dream.

Except that HGTV wanted none of it.

Fearing pushback from sponsors like Miracle Gro, Bayer and others, the HGTV producers rejected the Marblehead episodes and they were never aired during our show’s three-year run on the cable network.

Those episodes are available on-line, however:



The episodes center around Pat Beckett, above, a mother of two, who took up the pesticide fight after questioning the ubiquitous yellow lawn signs around her neighborhood, as well as Chip Osborne, the local greenhouse grower. Osborne, who now makes his living as a consultant to municipalities that are making their own transition to organic protocols, tells a deeply personal story that led to his own transformation away from synthetic chemicals.

Check out the episodes, that run approximately 6 minutes apiece, and then send them around to folks who hope to reduce pesticide exposures in their communities. All these years after Marblehead’s example, we still have far too many toxic substances getting released into the landscape.

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CREATE A BUZZ: Tell the Government What You Think About the Bees and the Pesticides that Kill Them

Please take a moment to let the EPA know how you feel about the pesticides known to cause colony collapse disorder in bees.

As we reported late last month, the EPA declined to ban CLOTHIANIDIN, one of the compounds most responsible for the bee deaths that have plagued U.S. farmers and gardeners for the last six years. Now the EPA has opened up a public comment period for 60 days; this is the time to LET THEM KNOW WHAT YOU THINK:

Here are a few talking points (from Beyond Pesticides, Panna.org and SafeLawns):

1) The EPA’s own scientists originally assessed clothianidin as “highly toxic to honey bees” back in 2003.

2) The legal petition filed in March to ban clothianidin is supported by more than one million citizen-petitions, collected from people across the country, demanding the ban of clothianidin in particular – because of its lethal impact on honey bees.

3) Honey bees are responsible for pollinating at least a third of the nation’s food supply.

4) Thousands of bee farmers have already been bankrupted by the death of their bees in the last six years.

5) A substantial body of scientific evidence has confirmed that the use of clothianidin, an environmentally persistent poison, presents substantial risks to honey bees and other insects.

6) One of the American government’s lead bee scientists has confirmed that synthetic nicotines, of which clothianidin is a member, are harmful to bees even at microscopic doses which were originally presumed to be safe for bees.

7) Clothianidin was registered illegally, with inadequate paperwork. Yet the EPA granted a “conditional,” or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003, without obtaining a legally required field study, to prove that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on bees and pollinators. Conditional registration was only granted on the condition that such an acceptable field study would be submitted later; but this crucial requirement was never met.

8) Beekeepers estimate the economic value of their operations at $50 billion, based on retail value of food and crops pollinated by bees. Bees pollinate many high-value crops, including: pumpkins, cherries, cranberries, almonds, apples, watermelons, and blueberries.

9) According to a recent United Nations report on the global decline of pollinator populations, “honeybees are the most economically important pollinators in the world.”

10) More than 4 million bee colonies have died in America since 2006 and the figure is close to 10 million bee colonies worldwide — overwhelmingly in countries where clothianidin and other neonicotinoid pesticides are widely used.

BACKGROUND: Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides in which the insecticide is most typically applied as a seed-coating at planting, but the substances are also used in sprays and granular lawn chemicals to kill grubs and other insects; the poison is taken up inside the growing plant, perfusing the entire structure of leaves, stem, flower and fruit; it is also expressed in the pollen and nectar. Bees are poisoned as they harvest the pollen and nectar to take back to the hive.

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Historic DC Pesticide Ban Spurs Interest Across US

Two weeks since SafeLawns announced the historic pesticide protection legislation passed at the Nation’s Capitol, numerous other municipalities have been calling us for information about how it happened. We won’t mention them here; at this point that would only tip the hand of the chemical pesticide lobby groups.

Your every step is important.

First off, here’s the DC bill; the wording is critical:


Each situation brings its own nuances, but here’s link to a post that every municipality should read before it takes on the fight toward a pesticide ban:


The most important first step we would recommend after being involved with dozens of these initiatives? Find your own version of Mary Cheh — an elected official willing to take this on.

Beyond that, give us a call. We’re always willing to help. Feel free to give us a call or send an email to Paul@SafeLawns.org.

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Pollinators: A Must-See Video About the Natural World

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this 4-minute video is worth an epic tome. Directed by Louie Schwartzberg, the piece speaks to why we need to reduce pesticides . . . far more eloquently than words really ever could: http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/xHkq1edcbk4?rel=0

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French Move to Ban Another Bee-Killing Chemical

The French government has put one of the world’s huge chemical pesticide manufacturers on notice: One of its newer insecticides is killing bees and that product’s days are numbered.

Thiamethoxam — one of many pesticides in the class known as neonicotinoids, or synthetic nicotines — was recently implicated in a report by France’s National Food, Environment and Work Safety Agency. A leading French government official said he plans to notify the manufacturer, Syngenta, that he will push for a full European ban of the product.

Here’s the story: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/france-to-ban-swiss-pesticide-as-bee-threat

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Avoiding Second-Hand Pesticides: How to Talk to Your Neighbors About Their Lawn Chemicals

This sign lets your neighborhood know where you stand on the applications of pesticides.

Those other signs are ubiquitous these days. “Caution.” “Warning.” “Danger.” “Keep off the Grass.” Usually in yellow, but sometimes in green, gray, red or black, the flags are nearly as plentiful as lawns themselves.

They are actually legal documents designed to warn pedestrians and homeowners about the very real dangers posed by EPA-registered products known as pesticides — the weed and insect killers and fungicides that are engineered, mostly in laboratories, to keep our lawns lush and green according to the larger society’s aesthetic standards. Depending on where you live, the warning signs are suppose to remain in place until the product is “dry,” or 24, 48 or 72 hours after the application. It’s all determined by the arbitrary whims of local lawmakers.

This benign sign offers no warning, but rather a polite suggestion.

Of the many questions we receive here at SafeLawns, perhaps the ones that bring the most inherent angst are those concerning how to talk to neighbors who stubbornly refuse to cease applications of these toxic products. These are the people we need to live next to, the folks whose living rooms our children visit and, often, the friends we entrust with having our backs in times of need.

And when these folks apply pesticides themselves, without hiring a licensed lawn care company, they don’t even need to post. They almost assuredly don’t watch the wind speed or pattern, or concern themselves about whether or not it will rain later that day. They just apply the stuff they just bought at Wal-Mart — unaware that the stuff is banned in Canada because it’s so dangerous.

How to hold that most awkward of conversations is a study in nuance. There is no one right way to proclaim to another human being that he or she is doing something that is, at the least, offensive and, at the worst, life threatening.

Here are a few ideas we have found that can help:

BE CALM — Begin by offering to share your knowledge about pesticides with neighbors in non-threatening, friendly terms. Angry approaches rarely work, but chatty banter can get people’s attention: “Say, Joan, did you hear about a report from Cornell University about those products we put on lawns?” Joan shrugs, but she’s not yet on the defensive. “Yeah, I just read a study by Dr. David Pimentel at Cornell University found that as little as one-tenth of one percent of the weed killers we apply ever reach their target weed. That means most of the product is winding up in the wrong destination, maybe inside your house, or on your skin or in your lungs. And it’s costing a lot of money, most of which is wasted.” Really? says Joan. Maybe she shrugs again, but at least you might have her thinking.

THE SCHOOLTEACHER APPROACH — Collect web sites and magazine articles that can be photocopied and disseminated among friends. Some of the best on-line sources are www.BeyondPesticides.org, www.panna.org, www.ehhi.org and (of course) www.safelawns.org.

This pesticide warning sign, outside a hospital, tells readers to keep off the grass for 72 hours — but you have to be on the grass to be close enough to read it.

THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN — Right before an election, those “VOTE-FOR-ME” signs pop up everywhere. Our SafeLawns “Safe to Play” signs, above, are a non-confrontational way to let everyone in our new neighborhood know exactly where we stand on the issue of weed killers — while avoiding the awkward conversation that my wife doesn’t want me to have with people she might need to help her someday when I’m out of town. Everyone on our cul-de-sac either walks or drives by daily and the sign helps explain why ours is the only lawn in the area with dandelions and clover growing freely.

A NIGHT OUT — Organize a local seminar and recruit an expert to speak (I’m asked to present at dozens of these events each year). Invite local garden clubs, watershed alliances, civic organizations and church groups to attend. Offer to buy your neighbor dinner on the way.

THE GIFT — Give your neighbor a book about the dangers of pesticides. One of the best new releases on the market is Dr. Sandra Steingraber’s Raising Elijah, about the challenges of developing a healthy child in an era of environmental crisis. We have begun to give our book, Tag, Toss Run: 40 Classic Lawn Games as gifts around our neighborhood; the book is 99 percent about games, but it includes a page about the SafeLawns campaign to reduce pesticides. When parents see their children out rolling around in the grass playing all the games, maybe they’ll think twice about coating that grass with poisons.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE — If you grow a beautiful lawn and landscape without using chemicals, your neighbor will willingly follow your example. When we moved into this home last year, the lawn out front was thin, bare and ugly. A year later, we still have a few of what most people would call weeds — and my 5-year-old daughter calls flowers — but we also have one of the most green lawns in the neighborhood thanks to an organic approach that has focused on the soil health.

FIND COMMON GROUND — If your neighbor has children, then you can focus your conversation on the risks associated with pesticides around children. If your neighbor has a dog or a cat, show them studies that associate the health risks of pets around pesticides. Pesticides also affect fishermen, hunters, bird watchers, or the water supply.

The bottom line is that — if you get to know your neighbor — you can usually find a way to bring the conversation back to pesticides. It may not be easy to get them to change, just like it wasn’t easy to get rid of second-hand smoke in restaurants and other public places. But second-hand pesticides are just as bad; we can stop that, too, if we try.

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Do Autism in Humans, Colony Collapse in Bees Share Common Cause?

The same pesticides known to cause colony collapse disorder in bees are linked to higher rates of autism.

Pesticides appear to be at the root of two evils: http://truth-out.org/news/item/8586-the-autism-epidemic-and-disappearing-bees-a-common-denominator

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Huffington Post Debates School Pesticide Legislation

Great article today . . . and very timely with the National Pesticide Forum starting in Connecticut on Friday: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/27/children-health-pesticides-fields-schools_n_1382688.html

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More Than A Million People Send Message: Stop Bee-Killing Pesticide in its Tracks

It has taken several years for science to catch up with common sense in the nonsense known as colony collapse disorder in bees. It was obvious to us more than five years ago that a class of pesticides known as neonicotines — imidacloprid, chothianidin and others — was responsible for wiping out millions of beehives in North America. In the past year report after report from the scientific community has confirmed that these pesticides are a major contributing cause of bee decline.

Stating emphatically that we cannot let affirmative action wait, now that we have the scientific proof, more than a million Americans joined beekeepers in filing a legal petition demanding that the EPA re-register the chemical compound that is the worst offender: clothianidin.

Add your name to the chorus today: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/7106/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=10078.

Don’t stop there, though. We need to demand that the EPA de-register all classes of synthetic nicotines. We need to tell our garden centers to stop selling these products and we need to tell our neighbors that if they care about fruits and nuts and all the other food pollinated by bees, we need to stop applying these products.

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