Jul 30, 2014

DEEPENING HONEYBEE CRISIS AND OUR FOOD SUPPLY

by Sierra Club's Genetic Engineering Action Team (GEAT)
July 16, 2014



WHAT IS THE HOOPLA ABOUT HONEYBEES?  


When people think of honeybees, honey comes to mind. Most people are not aware that honeybees are a major pollinator for crops that produce one third of American food, including over 140 fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Yet honeybee populations are in significant decline.


WHAT IS THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE DWINDLING HONEYBEE POPULATIONS?

There is a a strong body of scientific peer reviewed papers linking the honeybee demise to a widely-used class of neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids ("neonics" for short). This new class of pesticides has been registered for use since the early 1990's. Commonly used neonics are imidacloprid, clothiandin, thiamethoxam (and others). Traditionally, pesticides are applied directly to the soil or plant. In 2005, Monsanto received patents to "coat" their propriety genetically manipulated seeds with neonics, primarily manufactured by Syngenta and Bayer. Since 2005, seed treatments became the new norm, in order to protect emerging seedlings from pests. These neonic coated seeds are encapsulated with a material which releases the pesticide slowly.

Neonics are systemic pesticides that are taken up through roots and leaves and distributed throughout the entire plant, including pollen and nectar. They are even present in the tiny drops of fluid which form on the plant's surface. Neonics are slow to break down. They contaminate surface water, ground water, and soil. The entire food chain becomes contaminated.


Neonics endanger not only pollinators, but also other beneficial species that inhabit these ecosystems, such as butterflies, earthworms and birds. Many are calling this critical situation the next Silent Spring.


WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SEED COATINGS AND GENETICALLY MANIPULATED SEEDS?

Neonics are used extensively as seed dressings on corn, soy, sunflower, canola, as well as on horticultural crops. (www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/whats-poisoning-the-bees/Content?oid=3939487&showFullText=tru)

Most conventional corn seeds and virtually all genetically manipulated corn seeds are now treated with a neonic seed treatment. Corn is grown not only for human consumption, but also to feed animals raised in livestock factories and feedlots and to drive our cars.


WHAT IS COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER (CCD)?

The surge in seed treatments coincided closely with the crash in honeybee populations. In 2006, David Hackenberg, former president of the American Beekeeping Federation, and other beekeepers discovered their foraging bees left the colony in search of pollen and nectar but did not come back, which is highly unusual for a social insect to leave a queen and its brood or young behind. This finding of neurobehavioral disruption is a significant distinction of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Other responses include disruptions in bee mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.

Neonics also impair the bee's immune system, leaving it much more susceptible to attacks by parasitic fungi and other disease agents.

Exposure to neonics has both lethal and sublethal effects on honeybees. Lethal effects occur when bees die within a few hours from exposure to a high dose. Sublethal effects, measured at very low doses in parts per billion or even parts per trillion, result in various harmful symptoms.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) AND REGISTRATION OF NEONICS

The U.S. EPA has allowed the very rapid and ubiquitous expansion of neonic application to most farmland in North America. EPA registration was based solely on the data submitted by the companies manufacturing their proprietary pesticide (primarily Bayer Crop Science). In addition, the EPA did not consider sublethal effects on honeybees in the approval process.

(EPA spokesperson Margie Fehrenbach's wrote to Sierra Club (9/10/2008), stating: "With the recent concerns about the unusual honey bee losses in this country, we are now examining more advanced methodologies for assessing behavioral effects, such as mobility, navigation/orientation, feeding patterns, learning performance, and community ecology. In order to appropriately evaluate these types of sub-lethal effects and to use the information in a regulatory context, standardized methods and protocols need to be developed for assessing these types of behavioral effects."



DOES THE MULTINATIONAL AGRIBUSINESS SUPPRESS THE SCIENCE?

Numerous independent scientists signed a statement which included: "When those with a vested interest attempt to sow unreasonable doubt around inconvenient results, or when governments exploit political opportunities by picking and choosing from scientific evidence, they jeopardize public confidence in scientific methods and institutions, and also put their own citizenry at risk. Safety testing, science-based regulation, and the scientific process itself, depend crucially on widespread trust in a body of scientists devoted to the public interest and professional integrity. If instead, the starting point of a scientific product assessment is an approval process rigged in favor of the applicant, backed up by systematic suppression of independent scientists working in the public interest, then there can never be an honest, rational or scientific debate."
www.independentsciencenews.org/health/seralini-and-science-nk603-rat-study-roundup

Many believe the crisis of worldwide bee deaths threatening the global food supply has been worsened by an industry-funded misinformation campaign and that public relation companies hired by leading chemical companies (Monsanto, Bayer, and Syngenta) have been distracting policy makers from identifying the causation of honeybee decline.



EUROPEAN UNION SUSPENSION:

In January 2013, the European Food Safety Authority officially labeled neonics to be an "unacceptable" danger to bees feeding on flowering crops and the regulations contained "major weaknesses." Following that review, the European Commission implemented a continent-wide two year suspension of the three most-used neonics.


THE SIERRA CLUB GENETIC ENGINEERING ACTION TEAM (GEAT):

Sierra Club's Pollinator Protection Campaign is a special project of the Sierra Club's GEAT. The evidence points to neonic seed coatings as an important cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. Most corn, soy and canola are genetically manipulated and "coated" with neonics.
(Sierra Club policy states: "Genetic engineering is a new technology which, unlike traditional breeding methods, allows the transfer of genetic material from one organism into a host organism of an unrelated species, thus bypassing the natural reproductive barriers between species.")

Sierra Club's GEAT wrote the EPA, urging the regulatory agency to suspend all neonic seed treatment product registrations until it can obtain scientific evidence that the effects are not causing harm to America's honeybees.

Sierra Club's GEAT worked with Kevin Hansen, who produced the outstanding documentary "Nicotine Bees." The film included an interview with independent scientist Charles Benbrook, PhD, who explained in layman's terms how neonics are decimating honeybee populations. Sierra Club's GEAT then distributed copies of Nicotine Bees to every member of Congress, along with a letter from the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, stating: "Nicotine Bees vividly describes a very real threat to the pollinators of our country."

Sierra Club's GEAT sent a press release (11/11/2009) announcing the release of Nicotine Bees. The McClatchy newspaper publisher picked up the story, which made its way to federal regulatory agencies.

Following the Purdue study entitled "Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields," Sierra Club's GEAT sent a press release (1/10/2012) with the header: "New research should nail the coffin lid shut on a toxic bee-killing pesticide." Again, our release was picked up on the McClatchy wire.
(www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029268)

Sierra Club and other groups and beekeepers (3/21/2013) filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the EPA for failure to perform adequate toxicity evaluations and allowing registration of the pesticides on insufficient industry studies.

According to Dr. Benbrook, the EPA has never denied an application for a new pesticide, nor banned a currently registered product because of adverse impacts on bees, nor is it likely to without new legislation and a push from the public and Congress. Therefore Sierra Club sent numerous action alerts for members to encourage Congress to support the Saving America's Pollinator Act of 2013 (H.R. 2692).



TAKE ACTION:


  • Tell the story.
  • Call Congressional representatives to support the Saving America's Pollinator Act of 2013 (H.R. 2692). Phone calls are more effective than emails.
  • Encourage garden centers to refrain from selling neonic-treated plants.
  • Replace grass with edibles and pollinator plants in residential and business areas.
  • Plant edible gardens.
  • Install backyard beehives.
  • Encourage cities to ban neonics.
  • See the Cleveland Hts, Ohio, ordinance which bans outdoor pesticides on public grounds. (www.neosierragroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/131-1995PSH-As-Amended.pdf)

ENDING THOUGHTS

As Dr. Benbrook so eloquently explained in his Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture (12/2008), "Our failure to ask ecologically-grounded questions, coupled with the economic power behind the private sector push toward high-cost systemic, genetic engineering and proprietary pest management technology, has set the stage for a series of train wrecks."

The EPA claims the agency will review the situation in 2018. Clearly, that's not good enough. The time is now for EPA to quit dodging the illusion of oversight and, instead, cancel these bee-killing pesticides. If we travel too far down our current path, we could create conditions in our food system much like those that brought down the financial system.

For further information, contact Laurel Hopwood at <lhopwood@roadrunner.com>
(volunteer) Chair, Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Action Team
(volunteer) Coordinator, Sierra Club Pollinator Protection Campaign

Jul 10, 2014

MDEQ HOLDING PUBLIC HEARINGS ON NEW DRAFT FRACKING RULES


If you are concerned about Fracking in Michigan - then we need you to speak out now!  

The MDEQ is now accepting comments on their new draft rules for hydraulic fracturing.  The comment period ends on Thursday July 31.  There are two public hearings - one in Gaylord on Tuesday July 15, and one in Lansing on July 16.  Both are from 6:30-9:30PM.  Details are in the official Public Notice here:  http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-oogm-Part615-Revision-NOH2014_460477_7.pdf  

We need as many people as possible to attend these two hearings, and tell the DEQ:  

"These new rules don't make fracking any safer for Michigan; our air, water and communities are still at risk, and MDEQ needs to go much much further to protect us, or just stop allowing fracking."  

Would you be willing to go to one of the hearings, and help us to share that message?  

Won't you please join us?  Our attendance at these two hearings are one of the most direct ways we'll ever have of winning any positive changes in Michigan having to do with extracting fossil fuels.  If you live in an area of Michigan that has been subjected to new extreme hydraulic fracturing for natural gas or oil, then you have important input for the DEQ on their proposed rules.  Who better than you to tell them what it's like to live near one of these places?  

If you have any questions at all, let me know at rita.chapman@sierraclub.org.  

Thank you, I hope to hear from you!    

Rita Chapman


Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

Jun 26, 2014

Great Climate March in New York City - Michigan Sierra Club bus trip - Sept 21

SCHEDULE

Bus departs Ann Arbor between 8 pm and 9 pm, Saturday, Sept. 20
Arrive NYC between 8 am-9 am Sunday for the March
Return to Ann Arbor that evening.
$125 per person for transportation and expenses.

We need 50 people to commit to the trip to make this happen and we will need to know if we have critical mass by July 3.

In the meantime if you intend to make this journey to help send a powerful message of support for climate solutions and have a great time doing it please register now for the Great Climate March with the national Sierra Club.

Jun 21, 2014

Marvin Roberson: State's policies should prevent selling best land - State of Michigan preparing to sell off unprecedented amounts of public land – Make your voice heard!





Written by
Marvin Roberson is a Sierra Club forest ecologist in Marquette.
Jun. 20, 2014 

Michigan residents are blessed with abundant amounts of public land, most of which is freely accessible to all. Our public land is treasured by state residents, and is a significant reason people come from other states to visit Michigan. They come precisely because most states do not enjoy such a generous amount of land accessible to all. They bring with them their hunting, fishing, and other recreational dollars. Public lands in Michigan are a significant economic force in our economy.
Unfortunately, Michigan may be poised to sell off significant parcels of public land. The state has received an application from a limestone mining company, Graymont, asking the DNR to sell them more than 10,000 acres of state forest land. That’s 15 square miles of land belonging to all of us that the state might sell to a private company. Most of the media coverage has focussed on the effects of this proposal on local residents. However, a land sale of this magnitude should be of concern to all Michiganians.

Not only is this an extremely large piece of land to consider selling (more than 20 times larger than any previous sale), it is also prime forest land. During a previous DNR planning process, DNR staff identified this very piece of land as some of the most valuable land in the state for both habitat and timber purposes. We should not be considering selling it.
Once an application is received, the DNR has a formal review procedure used to evaluate the merits of an application, and that is where the process is now. One of the criteria for selling land is whether or not it is “surplus.” Declaring land “surplus” means it has met previously established conditions for land the DNR does not want.
This piece of land meets no previously established definition of “surplus land.” In fact, if the most valuable 15 square miles of timber and habitat in the eastern UP is “surplus,” it is difficult to imagine which parcels of state land are not “surplus.” Could this be the beginning of wholesale disposal of state land in Michigan?
Some in fact hope it is. Incredibly, there are some influential politicians who are short-sighted enough to claim that we have “too much public land” in Michigan. They make this claim despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Public land in Michigan provides jobs in recreation, timber, and tourism. It provides aesthetic, habitat, and economic value.
These policy makers have not been able to articulate how much public land is “too much” or why. The Legislature, however, did pass a law requiring the DNR to justify owning land and describe the reasons to do so. The DNR produced the “Michigan Land Management Strategy.”
This document described all the reasons we should own public land. This included economic, recreational and environmental benefits. It also described criteria for land disposal, and identified types of parcels which the DNR might want to get rid of. Not surprisingly, this piece of land was not identified in this process as one we should consider selling.
The DNR is obligated to follow the formal application process. This includes significant amounts of staff time, analysis, public outreach, etc.. There is even a DNR web page atwww.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10368_11797_66953---,00.html.
However, this is money and time which never should have ben spent. This application should have been discouraged before it ever got to the formal review process.

If someone expressed interest in buying Mackinac Island from the state, we would not need any formal review process to know that the answer is “No.” The same should have been true here. This company should have been told “Don’t bother applying, not for sale.”
However, it appears that pressure from short-sighted, ideologically driven politicians has moved this from the realm of unthinkable to the possible. While it is unfortunate that these politicians do not care about the long-term benefits public lands bring to our citizens, it is not too late. The DNR is still accepting comments from the public on this. Let them know what you think by email at DNR-GraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov
Tell them to oppose selling this, and other pieces of land which belongs to all of us. It’s our heritage, and our legacy.

State of Michigan preparing to sell off unprecedented amounts of public land – Make your voice heard!

Jun 15, 2014

Tell Your Legislators: Don't Silence Michigan Voters!

Michigan Chapter Update

Last year, in a highly politicized move, Michigan enacted a wolf hunt after the legislature gave power to designate game species,the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) appointed by Gov. Snyder. The NRC decisions on game designations can't be appealed or challenged, meaning Michigan voters have lost their voice in challenging whether or not a species can be hunted in Michigan.

This summer, the Michigan legislature will review a new citizen's initiative which could further solidify this change. A citizen's initiative can either be approved by the legislature or sent to the November ballot where voters will get to decide. The Sierra Club needs your help to urge lawmakers to let this go to the ballot and let the people of Michigan decide these critical natural resource issues.

Give your state lawmakers a call today! Let them know Michigan citizens deserve to have a vote on designating game species and you want them to put this on the November election ballot. Here is where you can find your State RepresentativeState Senator, and their office phone numbers.