A truck filled with millions of dead bees parked in front of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon, marking the final stop of a cross-country tour to raise awareness about the gloomy future the world faces if the EPA does not ban bee-killing pesticides immediately.
However, instead of dropping the dead bees at the EPA's doorstep, they handed out over 4 million signatures advocating for the immediate ban on pesticides, along with letters from almost 200 environmental groups, organic farms and restaurants.
“In the five years since I started keeping bees, I’ve seen many hives killed by pesticides,” said James Cook, a Minnesota-based beekeeper who has been driving the truck across various states of the country since last Monday. “If some fundamental things don’t change, it’s going to be really hard for beekeepers to adapt to the environment around us.”
Over a year ago, the EPA launched an assessment process of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics, the most widely used in the world—which was suspended in the European Union in 2013—suspected to cause the massive death of bees, yet with little result or concrete action so far.
“Given the facts we have at hand about the links between neonics and bee die-offs, officials should move boldly and swiftly to stop any and all uses of these dangerous chemicals,” said Anna Aurilio, the director of the Washington, D.C. office of Environment America.
Farmers also argued that there was no compelling reason to use systemic insecticides, claiming they only served the economic interests of the chemical industry.
“Crop rotation as part of a diverse mix of crops, pasture and native plants seems to work quite well,” said Jim Goodman, farmer and owner of Northwood Organic Farm in Wonewoc, Wisconsin. “Of course it makes little profit for the corporations that manufacture agricultural chemicals—and there is the rub.”
According to activists, action must be taken now, as such pesticides have similar impacts to DDT about 50 years ago, which resulted in the collapse of osprey, bald eagle, and other bird and aquatic animal populations.