Government officials and environmentalists have been struggling to deal with a crisis in the loss of honeybees in the United States — a loss that threatens a major part of our economy. Pesticides are believed to be the culprit and companies have been under closer scrutiny as the crisis over the massive loss of bees worsens. Now, Ben Hill Griffin Inc., one of the largest citrus growers, has been found to have violated rules on the use of pesticides that resulted in the killing of millions of bees. However, the fine for the violation is just $1,500. By the way, that is not the maximum fine.
The laughable penalty shows how successful agribusiness has been in controlling legislatures and Congress. This is actually the first action ever taken against any company at any time in history for pesticide misuse leading to mass killing of bees. The state is confined to penalties stated on the product, which in this case is a maximum of $10,000. Even though records show violations on four different days, the company was fined only $1,500.
The company was trying to kill the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect that spreads greening, a citrus disease. Bees keepers reported mass death in their bee kingdoms after the company unleashed repeated aerial sprayings. By the way, the spraying cost the beekeepers $240,000 in lost honey alone.
What is astonishing is that all of this enforcement is based solely on the instruction on the label of the product. The company violated the label by spraying Delegate WG Insecticide before 7 a.m. when bees are foraging. The company then violated another label by spraying Montana 2F insecticide on the roots of a total of 50 acres of young citrus trees — directly exposing bees to Imidacloprid, the active ingredient in Montana 2F. Many of the dead bees tested positive for Imidacloprid.
The obvious lack of deterrence created by these fines is a joke. However, the company may challenge even the $1,500 fine.