Regulate-First-Think-Later Approach to Harm Honeybees

European bureaucrats placed a two-year ban on a class of pesticides in the name of “protecting honeybees” when in fact, as one EU official recently admitted, they didn’t have evidence that the chemicals present a serious threat to honeybee health.  According to an article in Food Chemical News, the European Commission official admitted that the government banned the chemicals simply because it was “the only factor” that the commission could quickly regulate.

It’s a case of “regulate first, think later.”  That’s not only dumb; it’s dangerous, because it threatens farmers’ ability to provide affordable food and may harm honeybees rather than help them.

As noted in earlier posts (here and here) and on and all the many articles linked therein, mystery surrounds periodic disappearances of honeybee hives.  It appears that numerous factors, including cold weather, new and old diseases, nutritional issues, and potentially some chemicals affect hive health, making the hives more susceptible when certain diseases strike.

Mother Nature and hive management appear to play critically important roles in honeybee health, but all the focus has been on one class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, even though they have not been shown of the source significant problems in real life settings. Randomly banning these pesticides simply harms farmers’ ability to produce food and may force them to switch to other chemicals that pose even greater risks to honeybees.

To top it off, this regulate-first-and-think-later approach diverts attention and resources away from exploring and discovering the actual causes of the problem. For example, researchers point out, in a recent issue of the journal EcoHealth, that the likely potential causes are not getting enough attention.  They explain:

Although many environmental and anthropogenic factors remain under investigation for their role in annual honey bee colony losses, the introduction of pests and pathogens, and large-scale shifts in management practices may be significant, under-researched drivers of colony losses in Europe and North America.

The recently expressed rationale for their regulation highlights the shortsighted nature of European bureaucrats’ approach. Environmentalists, beekeepers, farmers, and others should be up in arms, calling for an approach that includes research focused on likely causes and careful evaluation of the existing science.

While the issue may be complicated, solutions are out there, but public officials have to be willing to look in the right places.