The Daily Fix: Researchers Find Pesticides Are Hurting Bees, Showdown Over Gun Violence Billboard, and More Bloodshed in Nigeria
Scientists have long believed neonicotinoids could be harming bees, but a new Harvard study has named the pesticides favored by corn and soy farmers the "key driver" of colony collapse disorder.
Harvard researcher Chengsheng Lu and his team tracked the effect of neonicotinoids—dubbed neonics, to prevent tongue twisting—on hives through the seasons, Mother Jones reported. Twelve hives were treated with tiny levels of neonics and another six were kept free of them—all 18 made it through the summer just fine. But come winter, bees abandoned six of the treated hives, wandering off into oblivion.
Scientists are still trying to isolate the exact physical impact that neonics have on bees, causing them to leave their hives en masse, but it's believed "impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behavior" is the result of repeated exposure to even small amounts of the pesticide.
The maker of neonics, Bayer, disagrees with Lu's study, saying the researcher overdosed the bees. The German chemical manufacturer is behind a vast portfolio of chemicals and drugs, from indigestion aid Alka-Seltzer to birth control Yaz.
"Feeding honey bees levels of neonicotinoids greater than 10 times what they would normally encounter is unrealistic—it is deceptive and represents a disservice to genuine scientific research related to honey bee health," Bayer wrote in a published response.
Lu disputes that, saying he uses a level well below what scientists say is the average dose to kill half a hive. He points out that the bees are just fine for 13 weeks on neonics, but during winter they flee their hives.
Bayer also didn't like that the bees were treated for 13 weeks, but Lu points out that in New England (and many parts of the world) bees can forage in mild weather for 41 weeks or longer—or at the very least, between March and September.
Despite the Harvard study, a lot of research needs to be completed; meanwhile, European officials, awaiting more definitive word, decided last year to put a two-year moratorium on most neonic uses.
For its part, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing neonics, but the research is expected to take until 2016 at least. Until then, the pesticides are fair game despite all the nongovernment research buzz.
In other news...
- Martial Law Declared: Thailand's army has declared national martial law to prevent protesters from paralyzing government and blocking elections there, and the mandate applies to both pro- and anti-government protesters. More than two dozen people have been killed since protests began six months ago. (via The New York Times)
- Boston's Battle of the Billboard: The 252-foot-long sign reads, "45,864 Americans killed since the massacre at Sandy Hook," and advocates who want stricter gun control to end that kind of violence are being forced to remove it after 19 years of such updates. (via The Boston Globe)
- Vaccines Undermined Anew: If it weren't bad enough for vaccine popularity that actor Jenny McCarthy plays scientist every time she puts on a pair of glasses, the Central Intelligence Agency has been using vaccine programs as a cover to infiltrate foreign outposts, resulting in vaccination workers being assassinated and harming international efforts to fight disease. The CIA says it's going to stop doing that. (via National Public Radio)
- Mexican Activist Killed: The drug war in Mexico has claimed another life, this time that of an activist who hung posters of her missing son and others who disappeared in the infamous drug cartel state of Sinaloa. Nearly 30,000 have gone missing in Mexico over the last seven years of intense drug-trafficking-related violence. (via The Los Angeles Times)
- Buy Low, Sell Lower Standards: Oil and gas giant Shell has issued a 20-page report to reassure investors that climate change laws won't slow down its profits. (via The Guardian)
- Violence in Nigeria: At least 40 are dead after bombs ripped through a shopping center and blew up near a hospital in the central city of Jos, where there have been deadly clashes between Christian and Muslim groups, including the Islamic radicals of Boko Haram. (via BBC News)
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