EU Pesticide Ban: How Pesticides Might Be Killing Honeybees, and Affecting Humans

The EU has voted to ban pesticides, as they are now believed to be correlated with the sporadic deaths in bee populations across Europe. Fifteen countries have voted in favor of a ban that would limit pesticide use on croplands. This is just one of several proactive measures that European nations have taken on environmental policy, providing U.S. policymakers a valuable agenda to model after.

Neonicotinoid is a chemical found in pesticides that scientists believe has driven the bee population away and has even killed them off. Since the voting fell short of a qualified majority, the EU can't outlaw pesticides in their entirety. Instead they will implement a two-year restriction period on neonicotinoids effective July 1, 2013. The UK was one nation that voted against the measure, claiming that there was a great lack of data to support that the pesticides have truly been such a danger.

Europe is not the only area where bees have become extremely sparse. The United States has seen a dramatic disappearance in the honeybee population. Their disappearance can have significant consequences for crop production. However, millions of Americans remain in the dark on the seriousness of the issue. These small creatures have valuable jobs, as they pollinate crops that we consume daily. Without them, the agricultural industry will greatly suffer, and Americans will miss out on basic produce.

Since the disappearance of the honeybees, bee colonists have scrambled to breed more populations but still can't keep up with the massive losses. Bees play an active role in cross-pollination, which allows pollen to be transferred from the male component of a flower to the female part of a flower. Other plants rely on this pollination and inhabit croplands that supply our basic produce. In addition, the meat and dairy industries will potentially suffer if cattle can't eat the grass plants that they usually ingest. Needless to say, bees are a vital part of the ecosystem, and they have been underestimated in their value to American and world food supply.

The U.S Department of Agriculture outlines the top crops that honeybees pollinate:

Scientists have not ruled out one single cause for honeybee deaths, however the discussion of pesticide use has been the forefront of some speculation. Other potential causes could be a virus or even airborne radiation from extensive cellphone use in the U.S. Regardless, more initiatives are needed to preserve the threatened bee population. In reality environmental policy is simply not a top priority in Washington as other issues dominate congressional activity. However the EU has recognized the importance of bee populations in relation to ecosystems, and the U.S. should certainly take note of that. Failure to address the decline in these important species will potentially crumble multi-billion dollar industries in the U.S. and abroad.