The honeybees are dying off on our planet and the finger points at herbicides as a major causal factor. Nationally beekeepers lost 40% of their colonies last year.
The Obama Administration is proposing a study to address the decline in honeybee and monarch butterfly populations and a plan to restore them with 7 million acres of new habitat.
Scientists are looking at the role of neonicotinoid pesticides in the bee decline. A new study in the journal Nature posits that bees would rather eat food with this neuroactive tobacco byproduct than normal food.
And so we get a new class of addicted bees. Wonderful. Another study published in Nature shows that the glyphosphate pesticides also harm wild bee populations through seed coatings.
Monsanto figured out a way to deal with this crisis a few years ago, they bought the leading bee research firm Beeologics and ostensibly put their objective research on the shelf. A brilliant strategy. The chemical firms have been doing their normal rope a dope on this, improper application, no proof, etc.
Now word that the USDA threatens bee scientists.
An environmental activist group has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking new rules that would enhance job protection for government scientists whose research questions the safety of farm chemicals.Thanks Barack. Thanks Tom Vilsack.
The action filed on Thursday by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group for local, state and federal researchers, came less than a week after a World Health Organization group found the active ingredient in Roundup, the world's best selling weed killer, is "probably carcinogenic to humans." Roundup is made by Monsanto Co.
The petition to the USDA presses the agency to adopt policies to prevent "political suppression or alteration of studies and to lay out clear procedures for investigating allegations of scientific misconduct."
According to the petition, some scientists working for the federal government are finding their research restricted or censored when it conflicts with agribusiness industry interests.
A USDA spokesman said the allegations have no merit and that the agency values the integrity of its scientists and the quality of their research.
In March, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), an environmental activist group supporting local, state, and federal researchers, filed a legal petition with the USDA seeking new rules meant to increase the job protection for government scientists and citing censorship and harassment.An article from leading bee experts suggesting ways to deal with the crisis.
At least 10 USDA scientists have been bullied for research into farm chemical safety that conflicts with the interests of the agribusiness sector, according to PEER executive director Jeff Ruch:
“They have very little in the way of legal rights and have career paths that are extremely vulnerable.”
The scientific work getting hit hardest puts Monsanto at the bulls’ eye – it scrutinizes the effects of neonicotinoids and glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling Roundup herbicide, which the World Health Organization recently concluded is ‘probably carcinogenic.’
A senior scientist at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service told Reuters:
“Your words are changed, your papers are censored or edited or you are not allowed to submit them at all.”
Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity echoed this sentiment:
“Censorship and harassment poison good science and good policy. There’s no question that neonicotinoids are killing bees, and it’s long past time for our government to take action. The European Union has already banned neonicotinoids. The reports that USDA is harassing and suppressing its scientists for doing their jobs instead of using their findings to protect our pollinators are extremely disturbing.”
Both honeybees and monarch butterflies are said to be bellwether species, canaries in nature's coal mine, whose decimation should be a wakeup call regarding the health of our planet. The administration is planning on creating a 2000 mile butterfly corridor along the I - 35 freeway from Minnesota to Mexico. A flyway. Neat idea.
On another front, bottlenose dolphin deaths in the gulf have been traced to the BP disaster in a new peer reviewed study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published in PLOS 1. The study found that the deceased dolphins had abnormal adrenal and lung lesions. The report supports earlier studies that suggested a link between the oil spill that gushed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over the course of 87 days and mass dolphin deaths in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
"Known drops in temperature and salinity, as well as skin lesions consistent with freshwater exposure, were documented for live Lake Pontchartrain dolphins, suggesting that cold weather and fresh water may have contributed to this stranding cluster," the paper said. However, the research also pointed out that investigations into the causes of deaths of Lake Pontchartrain and western Mississippi dolphins were limited by the advanced decomposition of the carcasses recovered.BP had an interesting response, saying that correlation is not causation, or basically, screw the empirical evidence, show us the genes deteriorating in real time. Pretty damning study. I am surprised BP hasn't suggested that the dolphins were smokers yet. One in five of the dolphins had severe pneumonia, according to the lead pathologist, in a paper that says that their is conclusive proof of linkage between the spills and the die-off.
The paper also found that the deaths and strandings of dolphins in Barataria Bay occurred over the longest period of time, between August 2010 and December 2011, in an area where oil from the BP spill was present.
"The timing and location of this cluster is consistent with the spatial and temporal distribution of oil to bay, sound and estuary habitats in that region during and after the DWH oil spill," the study concluded, adding that studies of live dolphins in Barataria Bay found an unexpectedly high number of animals suffering from moderate to severe lung disease and other abnormalities associated with hypoadrenocorticism, a disease of the adrenal gland that affects an animal's immunity.
The report said the various clusters of animal strandings might have different contributing factors that may be better identified by additional studies still underway that are evaluating tissue samples from dead dolphins, including of adrenal gland and lung lesions.
The study also confirmed that a larger than normal number of stranded perinatal, or newborn, dolphins occurred in Mississippi and Alabama coastal waters in early 2011.
"Combined exposures of pregnant females to unusually cold temperatures, freshwater runoff, and DWH oil have been proposed as the cause of the higher number of perinate strandings during 2011," the report said. But it added that Brucellosis might also be a cause or contributing factor in those deaths, as it is known to cause late-term fetal losses in dolphins.
The study said that a lack of data on earlier newborn dolphin deaths, before the spill, makes it "difficult to interpret the significance of these early reported findings."
"Analysis of tissue lesions and other diagnostics, which was ongoing at the time of this study, will help identify how any one or combination of these factors may have dramatically increased stranding numbers, especially of perinates, in this cluster from Mississippi and Alabama during 2011."
Researchers said without normal adrenal glands, the dolphins were susceptible to bacterial pneumonia, which can damage the lungs to “the point of suffocation or can completely impair the mammal’s immune system through septic shock.”From the study:
“These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions that I had ever seen in wild dolphins from throughout the US,” said University of Illinois’s Kathleen Colegrove, who is the lead veterinary pathologist on the study, reported Reuters. “More than 1 in 5 had pneumonia that was severe and caused or contributed to death in those dolphins.”
To our knowledge, adrenal cortical atrophy as found in this study has not been previously described in free-ranging cetaceans, including bottlenose dolphins previously studied in the northern GoM . The normal corticomedullary ratio of dolphin adrenal glands has been determined to be approximately 1:1 . Thus, the discovered high prevalence of adrenal cortical atrophy in dolphins stranding during the ongoing GoM UME may be part of a syndrome that has not been previously reported in dolphins during mortality events. The prevalence of adrenal cortical atrophy identified in this study is consistent with the high prevalence (approximately 50%) of live Barataria Bay dolphins with evidence of hypoadrenocorticism assessed during 2011, including a relatively high proportion of dolphins with low blood cortisol, aldosterone, and glucose . Follow up evaluation of adrenal glands from stranded dolphins in subsequent years will help to determine the persistence of adrenal insufficiency observed relative to the timing of the UME and the concurrent DWH oil spill.“The data we have seen thus far, including the new study from NOAA, do not show that oil from Deepwater Horizon accident caused an increase in dolphin mortality…Even though the UME may have overlapped in some areas with the oil spill, correlation is not evidence of causation,” said Geoff Morrell, BP’s senior vice president for US communications, in a statement.
There are a number of different causes of adrenal insufficiency in mammals, including autoimmune disease, metastatic neoplasia, fungal infections, stress, trauma, miliary tuberculosis, corticosteroid toxicity, and contaminant exposure . Additionally, infection with phocine herpesvirus-1 has been demonstrated to cause adrenal cortical necrosis in marine mammals . In the current study, only 2 of 46 UME dolphins had inflammation in the adrenal gland, and with the exception of one case with a disseminated bacterial infection, neither infectious agents nor neoplasia were identified in UME dolphin adrenal glands. Further, there was no histologic evidence of autoimmune adrenalitis or neoplasia in any UME dolphin adrenal glands, indicating that adrenal cortical atrophy in UME dolphins was not due to direct infection of the adrenal gland, autoimmune disease, or neoplasia.
Now of course California is confronted with a new spill, in Santa Barbara, not on the same level as the Exxon Valdez or the BP Deepwater but one that will be undoubtably be felt for years. I lived in Oxnard in the mid seventies, right next to the beach and you collected oil and tar every time you walked barefoot from the last big spill up there. 105,000 gallons may have spilled in this unfortunate accident. Of course this could never happen up in the Chucksi Sea of Alaska and if it did it's not like the natives have the same political pull as the Santa Barbarans. Who cares?
I think it is well and good to leave the answers to the scientists but it is also important to see who is paying the scientists' salary. It seems like for the right amount of money you can get people to say most anything.