Beekeepers are calling for a ban on pesticides that are lethal to bees. The chemicals known as neonicotinoids weaken bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to pathogens. Beekeepers and scientists say this could contribute to colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear or die.
Commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations filed a petition Wednesday, asking federal regulators to suspend use of a pesticide they say harms honeybees.
The group is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban the insecticide clothianidin, one of a class of chemicals that act on the central nervous system of insects.
Over 1.25 million people also submitted comments in partnership with the organizations, calling on EPA to take action.
Beekeepers and some scientists say the chemicals known as neonicotinoids are lethal to bees and weaken their immune systems, making them more susceptible to pathogens. They say it could contribute to colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear or die.
The disorder continues to decimate hives in the U.S. and overseas. Since it was recognized in 2006, the disease has destroyed colonies at a rate of about 30 percent a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before that, losses were about 15 percent a year from a variety of pests and diseases.
Beekeepers annually replace those hives.
In response to calls for the ban on clothianidin and other neonicotinoids, the EPA is currently conducting a re-evaluation of these pesticides. France, Germany and Italy have limited or banned the use of neonicotinoids.
Bees pollinate about a third of U.S. crops.
California is the nation’s main producer of fruits and vegetables. Well over half of the bees from around the country are brought to the state at the end of February for almond pollination.
Beekeepers and environmentalists say the EPA ignored its own requirements and failed to study the impacts of clothianidin on bees. The agency granted a conditional registration to clothianidin in 2003, contingent on the submission of a field study establishing that the pesticide would have no unreasonable adverse effects on pollinators.
The field study was later submitted, but last year the agency found the study poorly designed and deficient. No other studies have been done to replace it, and the agency said pollinator field studies are limited in their utility.
The agency also said it evaluated clothianidin based on 34 scientific studies and that the chemical poses less risk to workers and wildlife than alternatives. While data show clothianidin is toxic to honeybees, the EPA says there’s no proven link to bee colony die-offs from exposure to the chemical.
Some researchers disagree. And while no one has been able to determine what causes colony collapse, most researchers point to a combination of factors, including pesticide contamination.
Use of clothianidin and other neonicotinoids is most worrisome, said Jim Frazier, professor of entomology at Penn State University, because the chemicals treat millions of acres of corn and other genetically modified plants throughout the U.S. Data show that the chemicals builds up over time in the soil, plants and trees, he said.
Frazier said studies have shown that clothianidin is toxic to bees. The pollen that bees take back to their colonies contains the chemical, as does the dust that comes off planters.
“The EPA admits that their testing has not been adequate to determine the impact of this chemical on bees and pollinators,” Frazier said, adding that while a direct link between clothianidin and colony collapse has not been established, more studies are needed.
Beekeeper Jeff Anderson of California Minnesota Honey Farms, a co-petitioner, said he believes clothianidin is weakening and killing his bees. Every year, he sees more bees die off when he stations them in Minnesota, especially when soy and corn treated with clothianidin are being planted.
“It’s a subtle long-term issue,” Anderson said. “It’s like giving bees AIDS. Their immune systems are down and all the pathogens and viruses become virulent. So the bees succumb much more readily.”
In recent years, Anderson said he lost over 30 percent of his bees during the winter and more during the rest of season.
Anderson, who has pollinated California’s almonds and cherries for more than 30 years, said he’s backing away from cherry pollination because the trees are sprayed with the chemical.
“They do it after we remove the bees, but the trees are retaining the chemical from one season to the next and creating a situation where the bloom is becoming toxic,” Anderson said.
Bayer CropScience recently announced the removal of almonds from the pesticide label for imidacloprid — another neonicotinoid — in California, thereby eliminating the use of the product in almond orchards, in response to concerns by the scientific community about the product’s impacts on honeybees.
In most western countries the annual increase in the prevalence and the severity of obesity is currently substantial. Although obesity typically results simply from excessive energy intake, it is currently unclear why some people are prone to overeating and gaining weight.
Because the central nervous system is intimately involved in processing of hunger signals and controlling food intake, it is possible that the cause of weight gain and obesity might be in the brain.
Researchers at the University of Turku and Aalto University have now found new evidence for the role of the brain in obesity. The researchers measured the functioning brain circuits involved in with multiple brain imaging methods.
The results revealed that in obese versus lean individuals, brain glucose metabolism was significantly higher in the brainâ€™s striatal regions, which are involved in processing of rewards. Moreover, obese individualâ€™s reward system responded more vigorously to food pictures, whereas responses in the frontal cortical regions involved in cognitive control were dampened.
â€œThe results suggest that obese individualsâ€™ brains might constantly generate signals that promote eating even when the body would not require additional energy uptake,â€ says Adjunct Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from the University of Turku.
â€œThe results highlight the role of the brain in obesity and weight gaining. The results have major implications on the current models of obesity, but also on development of pharmacological and psychological treatments of obesity,â€ Nummenmaa says.
The participants were morbidly obese individuals and lean, healthy controls. Their brain glucose metabolism was measured with positron emission tomography during conditions in which the body was satiated in terms of insulin signalling. Brain responses to pictures of foods were measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The research is funded by the Academy of Finland, Turku University Hospital, University of Turku, Ã…bo Akademi University and Aalto University.
The results were published on January 27th, 2012 in scientific journal PLoS ONE.
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The study, published by scientists in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, is one of the first of its type to determine whether some of the healthy compounds found in cruciferous vegetables can be just as easily obtained through supplements. The answer is no.
Not only do you need to eat the whole foods, you have to go easy on cooking them.
â€œThe issue of whether important nutrients can be obtained through whole foods or with supplements is never simple,â€ said Emily Ho, an OSU associate professor in the OSU School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute.
â€œSome vitamins and nutrients, like the folic acid often recommended for pregnant women, are actually better-absorbed as a supplement than through food,â€ Ho said. â€œAdequate levels of nutrients like vitamin D are often difficult to obtain in most diets. But the particular compounds that we believe give broccoli and related vegetables their health value need to come from the complete food.â€
The reason, researchers concluded, is that a necessary enzyme called myrosinase is missing from most of the supplement forms of glucosinolates, a valuable phytochemical in cruciferous vegetables.
Without this enzyme found in the whole food, the study found that the body actually absorbs five times less of one important compound and eight times less of another.
Intensive cooking does pretty much the same thing, Ho said. If broccoli is cooked until itâ€™s soft and mushy, its health value plummets. However, it can still be lightly cooked for two or three minutes, or steamed until itâ€™s still a little crunchy, and retain adequate levels of the necessary enzyme.
Broccoli has been of particular interest to scientists because it contains the highest levels of certain glucosinolates, a class of phytochemicals that many believe may reduce the risk of prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. When eaten as a raw or lightly-cooked food, enzymes in the broccoli help to break down the glucosinolates into two valuable compounds of intensive research interest â€“ sulforaphane and erucin.
Studies have indicated that sulforaphane, in particular, may help to detoxify carcinogens, and also activate tumor suppressor genes so they can perform their proper function.
Most supplements designed to provide these glucosinolates have the enzyme inactivated, so the sulforaphane is not released as efficiently. There are a few supplements available with active myrosinase, and whose function more closely resembles that of the whole food, but they are still being tested and not widely available, Ho said.
Small amounts of the myrosinase enzyme needed to break down glucosinolates are found in the human gut, but the new research showed they accomplish that task far less effectively than does whole food consumption.
Many people take a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals as supplements, and many of them are efficacious in that form, researchers say. Higher and optimal levels of popular supplements such as vitamins C, E, and fish oil, for instance, can be difficult to obtain through diet alone. Some researchers believe that millions of people around the world have deficient levels of vitamin D, because they donâ€™t get enough in their diet or through sun exposure.
But for now, if people want the real health benefits of broccoli, thereâ€™s a simple guideline:
Eat your vegetables.
About the Linus Pauling Institute: The Linus Pauling Institute at OSU is a world leader in the study of micronutrients and their role in promoting optimum health or preventing and treating disease. Major areas of research include heart disease, cancer, aging and neurodegenerative disease.