The following guest column was written by Peter Churchman. Churchman is the Libertarian Party nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 17th District of Texas.
A decade ago, every environmentalist would tell you that bees were on the short list of the next species to become extinct. We were warned that we would all face a global level of extinction because we’d have no food supply. Jerry Seinfeld even made an animated movie about the declining bee population. If the United States government didn’t immediately step in to save the bees (and us), we would all face impending doom. Colony collapse disorder was going to usher in the apocalypse!
Our federal government didn’t step in. A few states signed in some sparse patchwork regulations, but that did very little to solve the problem. Having noticed no famine in present day America, what exactly happened to change our fatal destiny? The beekeepers, and the farmers who depended on them to pollinate their crops, stepped in and rescued all of us. The American farmer is the most productive in the world; they have a long history of innovatively solving problems that affect their business model.
The problem of colony collapse disorder was caused by a new class of pesticides: neonicotinoids. This pesticide increases the bees susceptibility to the varroa mite. The varroa mite harms the queen bee and her reproductive capabilities. Commercial pollinators were also putting an inordinate amount of stress on the bees with their practice of shuttling them from farm to farm without giving the bees adequate time to acclimate to their new environment. This further contributed to the colony collapse disorder. When the queen would die, the rest of the bees would leave the hive. The apiarists would come back to an empty hive with no trace of the bees.
The apiarists solved this problem themselves, without government regulations or unnecessary involvement. It was apparent to them that if they wanted to keep BEEing beekeepers (see what I did there?), they would have to change their way of operating. They ramped up the production of new bees to replace the bees that were lost, and they required that the crops they were pollinating were not treated with neonicotinoids. To reduce the stress associated with moving the bees between locations, some farmers set up their own stationary bee colonies. They did this in order to save their businesses. There was no need for government intervention. The resiliency of the beekeeper and the free market solved this problem faster than any government agency could.
In this case, a ban on neonicotinoids themselves would have been a misstep by the government. Since neonicotinoids were introduced in the late 1990s, they’ve resulted in many agricultural products coming to markets at a lower cost, a higher quality, and with less overall use of insecticides. Neonicotinoids serve their purpose when used by farmers in ways that suit everyone’s needs. They are another step forward in the ever changing agricultural market. In the capable hands of the American agriculturist, the free market was the best solution for the problem of colony collapse disorder. I’m glad that the government didn’t get in the way with yet another useless, expensive and potentially harmful regulation.