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article imageGlobal ban on Neonics needed to save pollinators and the Earth

By Karen Graham     Feb 11, 2015 in Environment
Neonicotinoids (NNIs) are one of the most widely used insecticides in the world today. They are the perfect systemic pesticide. So perfect, in fact the European Environmental Agency says scientific data on its adverse effects may have been suppressed.
Most people probably don't even realize there is a new class of pesticides on the market. Systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids and fipronil (neonics), have been around for about two decades, and global sales now top over $2.6 billion. Their use was widely hailed as being less toxic to humans than pesticides that needed to be sprayed. They were touted as being effective at low levels, reducing the volume of pesticide needed.
Here is how neonics work, in a nutshell. The pesticide is directly applied to seeds or to the soil. As the plants grow, the pesticide is incorporated into the roots, traveling to the leaves, flowers, pollen and nectar of the plant. In turn, honeybees, butterflies, birds and other insects that are a part of the ecological cycle are affected either directly or indirectly by these pesticides.
Did you know that one-third of all food is produced as a result of insect pollination? And the Europ...
Did you know that one-third of all food is produced as a result of insect pollination? And the European honeybee is responsible for about 80 percent of this.
Nick Pitsas, CSIRO (CC BY 3.0)
Neonics, like a newer systemic pesticide on the market, flupyradifurone, is a nerve poison and is acutely toxic to honeybees when ingested. This was shown in a study conducted over a period of four years by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, a global group of independent scientists. They analysed over 800 peer-reviewed reports on systemic pesticides before publishing their findings on June 24, 2014.
In addition to the task force's study, researchers at Penn State and the University of South Florida conducted a study on systemic pesticides and the decline in pollinator populations that showed some interesting and unexpected results. The study, published Dec. 2014 in the Journal of Applied Ecology showed that not only did the use of systemic pesticides aid in reducing pollinators, but their use also wiped out native predators of agricultural pests, actually reducing crop yield.
Ban on some systemic neonics in place
On Dec. 1, 2013, the European Union put a partial ban on three systemic pesticides, primarily because on their detrimental impact on honeybees. While only a partial ban, it was a good first step in saving the pollinators. In the United States, the Fish and Wildlife Service finally bowed to scientific studies on the use of systemic pesticides, banning their use on national wildlife refuges by 2016.
Farmer spraying pesticides on crop.
Farmer spraying pesticides on crop.
This too is only a partial solution to the problem. Proof of this is in the number of states, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands whose bans on neonics will go into effect by 2016. In the Digital Journal story on the government's efforts to restore monarch butterfly populations, the decline of the honeybee was touched on. As butterflies, honeybees, and for that matter, bumblebees are all pollinators, the federal government needs to go much further in restricting or full-out banning the use of neonics in agriculture.
Another big reason to ban the use of neonics
Neonics are water-soluble and very versatile, meaning they can be applied in several different ways. The pesticide can be used to drench the soil, or they can be injected directly into a tree trunk. And, as has already been mentioned, seeds can be soaked in the pesticide. Unlike "traditional" pesticides, neonics do not wash off. While the manufacturers say they are safe for the environment, don't kid yourself.
Neonics have been found in high concentrations in waterways, and in the soil for up to six years after initial application. Home gardeners are unwittingly helping in the decline of pollinators all across the country. it has been found that applications of these systemic pesticides are being used at much higher concentrations on landscape plants and trees than is recommended by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
California High Desert Honey Bees Immersed in Yellow beavertail Cactus Pollen.
California High Desert Honey Bees Immersed in Yellow beavertail Cactus Pollen.
Jessie Eastland aka Robert DeMeo
Basically, the impact of systemic pesticides on the environment is far worse than what we saw with the use of DDT. Researchers say we are poisoning the Earth, the water and the air we breathe. The levels of these systemic pesticides found in some water sources have killed off the invertebrates, a source of food for fish, wading birds and other animals.
Far worse is the use of neonics as a prophylaxis, dousing seeds and soil in the hopes that the pesticide will kill pests, if they happen to attack the plants. Researchers claim this is akin to taking antibiotics to protect yourself from getting an infection. It just doesn't make any sense. Scientists say that with overuse of neonics, farmers are becoming overconfident, putting all their eggs in one basket, like they did with DDT.
More about neonics, Honeybees, systemic pesticide, adverse ecological effects, Ddt
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