Chemical Giants, "Regulators" & Politicians Fiddle While Honeybees Die!

Dear Editor,

As many of you will know, populations of honeybees have, in recent years, been tragically and “mysteriously” disappearing around the world.

I say “mysteriously” with some sarcasm, because pesticides are already known to be one of the factors. Yet, instead of removing these known toxins from the market, ever-more harmful ones are, shamefully, being approved!

Not only do the bees produce our honey, they are our most important pollinators, responsible for the production of up to one-third of the human food supply!

Despite numerous and now frantic studies into the phenomenon, which has been dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder,” nothing is being done and the bees continue to disappear.

So I’m not really optimistic for the future of these wondrous creatures.

Why? Because we have now let harmful chemicals insinuate themselves so completely into our lives, we can no longer separate reality from industry or government hype.

Beekeepers are themselves concerned about chemicals now being sprayed on crops like sunflowers, where some of their bees pollinate.

In a recent letter-to-the-editor, a government entomologist talks about “managing” insects on sunflower crops (with chemicals, of course).

It’s a single word. But it speaks volumes about how completely we have now divorced ourselves from the notion of working with nature to produce our food.

We are so bogged down in the nuances of the debate; which products will kill bees “on contact” (as opposed to which ones will kill them later on, I guess), and how “target” and “non-target” insects are affected, we can no longer see the forest for the trees.

Of course these chemicals have all been sorted into these neat little compartments, each with its own label.

That’s nice.

But, does anyone seriously believe there will be no harmful synergistic effects when so many chemical soups are applied with such abandon to our food crops yearly?

Are we supposed to accept that new generations of ever-more-potent poisons, descendants of ones used in wartime to kill people and now specifically designed to kill insects, will somehow stop doing their job, say “excuse me,” politely and magically step around beneficial insects and kill only the bad ones?

Give me a break!

Yet huge chemical-makers brag on their websites, without fear of contradiction, that they work “with nature,” toward “sustainable” agriculture and an end to world hunger!

All the while, their products are threatening food production, not promoting it!

Their version of “sustainability” is to pour ever-larger amounts of their over-priced products onto our crops, just so our producers can “stay even” with last year!

Figures from credible sources show that, despite the chemical onslaught that has transformed agriculture since the 1930’s, crops lost to pests of all kinds, have actually increased as a percentage of production!

Might there actually come a day when corporate chemical-makers, government bureaucrats, politicians and regulators, will actually face penalties if they know that certain products are harmful to human health or the environment, yet do nothing? Probably not.

But wouldn’t that jam up our courts!

If you think that sounds harsh, consider that one out of every three spoons-full of food we eat, comes courtesy of honeybees!

Meanwhile, North American “regulators”, armed with the certain knowledge that products already out there are “very highly toxic” to bees, continue, not only to allow their continued use, but to approve new ones that are probably even worse!

So, on whose behalf are these “regulators” acting? Yours? Mine? Or the chemical companies and their fat bottom lines?

You be the judge.

Meanwhile, scientists and researchers continue to chase their tails, frantically trying to explain every last reason behind “Colony Collapse Disorder,” a phenomenon that has been conveniently invented to impress people about how deep a mystery it is to solve.

There probably are factors other than pesticides involved, granted. But why should that stop them from acting on one they already know about?

And apparently bee deaths that do not fit the profile of Colony Collapse Disorder, (such as most of the ones in Canada) they don’t count!

You can bet the chemical companies are wringing their hands in glee, knowing that, as they rack up record sales, multiple scientific studies go madly off in all directions, concluding nothing.

In a couple of radio interviews I have heard, academics put a devilishly clever “spin” on the topic. Bending over backwards not to offend the chemical companies, they conceded that “not much more” can be done using pesticides, to protect the bees (from things like mites, etc)! Heaven forbid they should even hint that they are actually a factor!

(One has to wonder, just how “beholden” are their respective universities to the chemical companies because of grants they may get from them? Journalists don’t ask those kinds of questions, any more.)

If I were some crude American politician, I might be moved to shout, “It’s the pesticides, stupid!” (But I’m not, so I won’t.)

Larry Powell
Roblin MB.

Please also read “Lament for the Honeybee.” Just click on the “Honeybees” category in the column to the right.

Watch a fascinating video of how honeybees “dance” to tell others where to find food!
Just click on the headline to this story.

FOOTNOTE: Over the past several months, I have twice politely asked the federal Minister of Health, who is responsible for the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, to look into this. She has not responded.


Farmers Need Help to Grow More Food With Less Water – FAO

Future of water is in agriculture
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf has called for more attention to be paid to water management in agriculture and for increased support and guidance for farmers in developing countries to tackle water scarcity and the related problem of hunger. Meanwhile, the FAO has urged policy-makers to include agriculture in negotiations for a new climate change treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol.

Photo courtesty of

Canada Plunders Our Oceans With the "Best" of Them!

The Trouble With Sea Cucumbers – Sea cucumber stocks are under intense fishing pressure throughout the world, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In a majority of countries reviewed and in the African and Indian Ocean regions, stocks are overfished. In the Asian Pacific region the most sought-after species are largely depleted. [more… (Photos courtesy of FAO)

Large-scale sea cucumber harvesting

operation in Canada. (left).

Is the Harper Deregulation Agenda Running Amok?

New Bill threatens Canada’s grain safety and quality: study

March 31, 2009
OTTAWA—A controversial bill to change Canada’s grain regulatory system threatens Canada’s grain safety and quality, says a study released today by the Canadian Centre

for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
“Threatened Harvest: Protecting Canada’s World-Class Grain System”
is available
from the CCPA website.

A Question for Premier Doer and Manitoba Hydro

Dam Building Is Booming, But Is it the Right Path to Clean Energy?
By David Biello, Yale Environment 360. Posted February 24, 2009.
Dam proponents are touting hydropower as renewable energy in an era of global warming. But the human and
environmental costs are high.
(China’s 3-Gorges, the largest hydro dam in the world.Wikipedia photo)
(Story Courtesy of Alternet.)
(Read more by clicking headline.)

Hamburgers, The "Hummers of Food" in Global Warming?

Courtesy of
CHICAGO – When it comes to global warming, hamburgers are the Hummers of food, scientists say.
Simply switching from steak to salad could cut as much carbon as leaving the car at home a couple days a week.
That’s because beef is such an incredibly inefficient food to produce and cows release so much harmful methane into the atmosphere, said Nathan Pelletier of Dalhousie University in Canada. (Photo by AFP)
(Click on headline….)


(See update at bottom.)

A long-time resident of the Roblin area of western Manitoba, Ray Spencer, has asked the Manitoba Department of Water Stewardship to look into an intensive livestock operation north of the town, near Boggy Creek.

The cattle in question with Langen Lk. in b.g.

He says too many cattle (perhaps hundreds) are being fed in a field which slopes directly into Langen Lake, used for years by anglers in the area.

Many are members of the local San Clara/Boggy Creek Metis community. The Lake itself was named for Pat Langen, who used to live nearby.

Spencer, an angler, hunting guide, retired farmer and former livestock specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, has talked to some of the people who fish there. And they are worried the waste from the cattle is polluting the lake. (r.) He says some even fear the lake, noted for its walleye, may even die in a few years as a result. Another Beasley herd in the area, but away from the lake.

Hundreds of Black Angus cattle are wintering on several fields in the immediate area, including the herd near the lake.

Almost every square meter of the frozen fields (l.) is covered with raw, solid cattle waste.

Spencer believes there are about 12 hundred cattle there, altogether.

In his words, “What concerns me is the wintering of all these livestock next to a conservation lake. The raw manure could drain right in.”

He says overflow from the lake drains into the Shell River, a main waterway in the area.

But the owner of the livestock, John Beasley, does not believe this is happening.

He says he’d like to see test results from the lake water before he will accept it is being polluted.

Beasley claims he’s “not exactly sure,” even roughly, how many cattle he has.

In any case, he believes it’s not the actual numbers, but the way they are managed, that’s relevant.

Beasley believes he does what he can to keep pollution to a minimum.

He says he’s planted trees, put up a fence which keeps the cattle back from the lake and an “off-site” watering system,(r.) 200 meters back from the water. He says he also grows perennial forage crops to keep nutrient buildup to a minimum.

(Photos by l.p.)

He wonders whether those who are concerned would rather see cerial crops in the area, where lots of chemicals would be sprayed.

He says he has talked to those who fish in the lake and no one has complained to him, directly.

He says he fishes in the lake himself and “takes the fishery seriously.”

Meanwhile, Spencer says he has asked Water Stewardship to investigate and believes an inspector will be out any day now.

UPDATE – The Department of Conservation (not Water Stewardship) dispatched a rookie “Environmental Officer,” Dave Yunker, to the scene yesterday. (Mar.24th) All he would say is, “It may look bad” with all that manure on the hill, but he’ll have to check with his boss to find out if any regulations have been broken.
(He did say that Beasley has registered a manure management plan for his operation.)
Stay tuned! l.p.
This is great reporting, Larry – good photos, too!
Who needs the CBC???? (losing hundreds of jobs! Disgusting!)
Elaine Hughes