First Long-term Study Confirms World’s Most Popular Pesticide is Wiping Bees Off the Planet

From Justin Gardner:

The rise of industrial agriculture — led by companies like Monsanto that push monoculture, chemical-based farming and patented life forms — has brought a flood of pesticides that wreak havoc on natural ecosystems.

Insects and animals that eat insects fall victim to the millions of gallons of pesticides that are dumped on cropland, which run off into waterways, drift to nearby habitats and are picked up as residue by visiting pollinators.

In the 1980s, Bayer developed a potent new class of pesticide called neonicotinoids (neonics), which rapidly came to dominate industrial agriculture. In 2008, they represented 24 percent of the global market for insecticides, with Imidacloprid becoming the most widely used insecticide in the world.

Almost all U.S. corn and about one-third of U.S. soybean is treated with neonics. A “major advance” happened when agribusiness developed neonic-coated seeds, where every part of the growing plant becomes infused with the toxin, including pollen.

After government regulators, deep in the pockets of agribusiness, rushed to approve neonics for commercial sale, scientific studies began documenting the ecological impacts. Bird populations and other insectivores declined due to a lack of insect prey, as neonics became more widely used.

In 2006 we began seeing dramatic die-offs of honeybee populations, which play a vital role in pollinating food crops. Colony collapse disorder became a common occurrence, with bees showing classic signs of insecticide poisonings such as tremors, uncoordinated movement and convulsions.

Dead bees in and around hives showed the presence of neonics, and new research found that low-levels of neonics in bees made them susceptible to viral infections and mites, and reduced the reproductive ability of queen bees. Corn and dandelion pollen brought back to hives routinely tested positive for neonics.

Other insects are devastated by neonics, including the North American bumblebee which has seen a 90 percent decline. The threat …

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