Monsanto, Bayer and Sygenta are among the agrichemical companies funding honeybee research in the US as scientists investigate pesticides as a potential cause of honeybee decline, Reuters reports.
Bayer and Syngenta, which produce neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides linked to bee decline, are helping fund research at Iowa State University and Ohio State University to study the affect of insecticidal seed treatment dust on bee losses, the news agency reports. Bayer is also breaking ground on a center to study bee health in North Carolina.
Monsanto, which uses the pesticides to coat its seeds, plans to host a June summit to discuss potential bee solutions, according to Reuters.
The companies say their pesticides are not responsible for honeybee decline.
Late last month the European Union voted to impose a two-year ban on neonicotinoids in an effort to protect bees. A similar US ban could cost agrichemical companies millions of dollars in sales, Reuters says.
A report published earlier this month by the US Department of Agriculture and EPA found that nearly one in three managed honeybee colonies were lost over the winter of 2012-2013 — a 42 percent higher decline than that seen the year before, the report says. The report blamed multiple factors for the bee die-off, including parasites, disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. The researchers pinned a large part of the blame on a parasitic mite known as Varroa destructor, and said it is not clear whether pesticides are a major factor.
EPA acknowledges that honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a concern in the US. But is says acute pesticide poisoning of a hive is not the same as CCD.
In March 2012, a group of beekeepers and honey producers, together with Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, International Center for Technology Assessment and Pesticide Action Network of North America, petitioned the EPA to immediately suspend the use of clothianidin, one of the three neonicotinoid chemicals identified by the European Food Safety Authority and scientists from EU member states as posing a risk to bees. The EPA declined, concluding that the petition did not show clothianidin poses an imminent hazard to bees, but is reviewing the pesticide.
About three-quarters of global food crops rely on bees and other insects to fertilize their flowers. The decline of honeybee colonies due to disease, habitat loss and pesticide harm is concerning, according to a United Nations report.