Pesticide use must be restricted to sustain bee population

Jankhna Sura, Features Editor

In less than three months, over 500 million bees have been found dead by beekeepers in Brazil this year. These sudden and colossal deaths of bees are now being linked to the excessive use of pesticides: the result of weakened chemical regulations by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, and his administration. 

Brazil’s use of pesticides has increased 770 percent from 1996 to 2016 according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and now ranks number 44 in the world for the largest use of pesticides per hectare. To make matters worse, in July, Brazil’s government also created a new method to assess pesticides that, according to Mongabay, will  “will reduce restrictiveness of toxicological classifications.” Since then, more than 1,990 pesticides have been reexamined and the number that are considered extremely toxic have decreased from 702 to 43. 

In only seven months, the Bolsonaro government approved over 290 pesticides. This number is incredibly high and for comparison, in 2010 Brazil approved only 45 new chemicals in seven months before Bolsonaro entered office. Many of these now approved chemicals are banned in the European Union, the United States and in many developed countries. 

Now, in four Brazilian states, beekeepers have reported extensive bee die-offs from October 2018 to March 2019. Many suspect that this is due to colony collapse disorder, where worker bees desert their hives and then vanish, but this is not the case. In a study by scientists at the National Agricultural Laboratory of Rio Grande do Sul, pesticides were found in the carcasses of honey, combs and young bees. Clearly, pesticides are the cause of the instant death of bees. 

Bees are one of the most essential pollinators in nature. According to the FAO, bees pollinate over 75 percent of the world’s crops and plants. Bees also account for about a third of the food that humans consume. Without bees, crops such as soybeans and canola yield less and others such as fruits and nuts stop reproducing entirely. 

“If we don’t have bees, we don’t have food because that is how they pollinate our food,” said Kimberly Clay, AP Environmental Science teacher. 

The environmental issues that Brazil is facing all come down to bad policy and a lack of environmental concern. However, they are not the only one. In the United States, wilderness protection areas have shrunk and the Endangered Species Act has been weakened. The U.S. also promoted pesticide use in National Wildlife Refuges and has “re-approving sulfoxaflor, a product banned in 2015 specifically for its toxicity to bees.” 

Bees are the basis of agriculture and are the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. Without them, entire food chains, ecosystems and natural systems would be altered and would dramatically change human food systems for the worse. 

In democratic societies, it is the people’s job to elect leaders who care about these environmental issues and to “demand” more from them, when enough is not being done. To help this issue individually, one can purchase organic foods to support bees as pesticide free crops support many more pollinators. However, if organic groceries are unaffordable or unavailable, one can consider cheaper alternatives such as planting flowers. Flowers increase the pesticide-free sources of nectar as well as pollen which can result in an increase the bee abundance in any habitat.

With the growing economy, pesticide use is only going to increase. If people want to continue to live in a world of plentiful food, bees must be given more importance and pesticide use must be restricted.