Tag Archives: Neonicotinoids

UN Report Warns of Low Numbers of Bees and Pollinators

Last Friday, a new examination of several studies on the decline of pollinators was approved by a congress of 124 nations meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The report was conducted by a team of scientists from around the world who worked with the United Nations for more than two years to assess the Earth’s biodiversity.

The study will help provide world leaders with an idea of what is happening to the Earth’s biodiversity and what can be done to prevent a loss of diversity. The researchers found that many species of wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators are quickly moving towards extinction.

“We are in a period of decline and there are going to be increasing consequences,” said report lead author Simon Potts, the director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at the University of Reading in England.

One of the consequences would be a loss of food that is dependent on pollinators including fruits, vegetables, coffee, and chocolate. The report states that 2 out of 5 species of invertebrate pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are on the path toward extinction. Vertebrate pollinators, such as hummingbirds and bats, are facing extinction at a rate of 1 out of 6 species.

The report pointed out a handful of sources for the decline in biodiversity, including pesticide use, habitat loss to cities, disease, parasites and pathogens, and global warming.

“The variety and multiplicity of threats to pollinators and pollination generate risks to people and livelihoods,” the report stated. “These risks are largely driven by changes in land cover and agricultural management systems, including pesticide use. Pesticides, particularly insecticides, have been demonstrated to have a broad range of lethal and sub-lethal effects on pollinators in controlled experimental conditions.”

One of the more controversial class of pesticides are known as neonicotinoids. The “neonics” are a class of pesticide that has previously been linked to declines in bee populations. Neonics were developed in 1991 and commercial use began in the mid-1990s. Several studies have indicated that neonics may cause harm to local pollinators.

Commercial beekeepers began reporting around 2006 what is now known as colony collapse disorder, where entire colonies of bees die off with no obvious cause. The disorder has been reported in commercial colonies all over the world.

Potts did state that the number of managed hives has risen slightly from 2.5 million in 2012 to 2.7 million in 2016. Between 1961 and 2012, the United States saw an estimated loss of 3 millions hives due to colony collapse disorder.

Although pesticides are only one of several possible sources responsible for the threat to pollinators, it should be noted that the United States has experienced controversy over neonicotinoid research.

In May 2015, Truth In Media reported that 25 organizations representing farm workers, food safety organizations, and the environment sent a letter to officials with the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency. They called for an investigation into claims that scientists are facing pressure and retaliation for research that presents the controversial neonicotinoid insecticide in a negative light.

The groups said they were concerned about a report from Reuters that detailed threats to scientists who spoke out about the dangers of the pesticide. These threats included suspension without pay and threats of damage to careers. The scientists filed a petition in March 2015 seeking more protection.

Will the United Nations report affect the United States’ use of pesticides? What steps can individuals take to remedy the situation? These are important questions for each of us to ponder. The loss of biodiversity and subsequent loss of food diversity is a reality that all humanity will soon have to face. The more prepared and educated we are the more likely we will be able to care for and protect our families well into the future.

Judge Allows USDA Whistleblower’s Claim to Move Forward

A judge with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board has ruled that an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service can pursue his complaint against the USDA regarding allegations of suppression of research which found that certain pesticides may be affecting bee and butterfly populations.

The USDA sought to dismiss Lungren’s complaint as “frivolous” and based on “speculative and unsupported” allegations but judge Patricia M. Miller denied the request. The judge ordered both parties to meet again on January 6 to discuss reaching a possible settlement.

“We were very pleased to receive Judge Miller’s ruling, as we feel Dr. Jonathan Lundgren has a very strong case,” said Laura Dumais, an attorney at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who is representing Lundgren.

Lundgren originally filed an internal complaint in September 2014 accusing the USDA of retaliating against him because of his research. The complaint was dismissed by the USDA and Lundgren was suspended in October 2014. The West Field Times reports that the USDA said Lungren was suspended for three days after USDA investigators found emails among his research staff which included indecent jokes.

On October 28 2015, Lundgren filed a complaint with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board after his supervisors allegedly began to “impede or deter his research and resultant publications.” Lundgren’s complaint alleges that his supervisors suspended him in retaliation for his research on neonicotinoid pesticides and also calls for an investigation of both the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The “neonics” are a class of pesticide that has previously been linked to declines in bee populations. Neonics were developed in 1991 and commercial use began in the mid-1990s. Around 2006, commercial beekeepers began reporting what is now known as colony collapse disorder — where entire colonies of bees die off with no obvious cause. The disorder has been reported in commercial colonies all over the world. Several studies have implicated neonics, which are used to kill insects harmful to crops.

Lundgren previously published a study that found soybean seeds pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides “offer little benefit to soybean producers.” He also served as a peer reviewer in a report published by the Center for Food Safety. That study found further evidence that neonicotinoids adversely affect bees.

In October The Post reported:

“The trouble began after he published research and gave interviews about the impact that certain common pesticides were having on pollinators, according to a statement by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which filed the complaint on his behalf. The whistleblower complaint says Lundgren’s work showed the adverse effects of certain widely used pesticides, findings which have drawn national attention as well as the ire of the agricultural industry.’”

Building a Sustainable Future

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio Lundgren discusses his plan to fund independent research into the dangers of pesticides.

“I’m still currently a USDA [Agricultural Research Service] scientist, but we’ve purchased a research, education and demonstration farm and are starting an initiative to complement some of the research that we’re doing within USDA,” he said.

The researcher says that he wants to focus on sustainable agriculture and helping farmers reduce pesticide use through farming practices that restore biological diversity.

“We’re not practicing sustainable agriculture because we’ve degraded a lot of the resources on our farms to the point where we really need to be thinking about strategizing,” he said. “How can we rebuild soil? How can we rebuild biological communities on our farms while producing food?”

Lundgren’s plan is to build a sustainable farm in eastern South Dakota to showcase his theories and generate an income which can fund more research. He also emphasized that he is not anti-science but rather focused on sustainable technologies for farming and food production.

“I’m not anti-pesticides, and I’m not anti-genetically modified crops, but what we’re finding is that those costs aren’t necessary once you’re doing things a little bit differently.”

A History of Corruption

This is the not the first time the USDA has been called out for putting politics before science. In early May of this year, Truth In Media reported that 25 organizations representing farm workers, food safety organizations, and the environment sent a letter to officials with the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency. They called for an investigation into claims that scientists are facing pressure and retaliation for research that presents the controversial neonicotinoid insecticide in a negative light.

The groups said they were concerned about a report from Reuters that detailed threats to scientists who speak out about the dangers of the pesticide. These threats included suspension without pay and threats of damage to careers. The scientists filed a petition in March asking for more protection.

PEER executive director Jeff Ruch told Common Dreams the petition was “based on the experiences of 10 USDA scientists.” The scientists allegedly faced backlash for research on neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate — an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide — as well as their investigation of other topics, including genetically modified crops.

What can the people of the United States do when government agencies prove incapable of keeping the people safe, or corrupted beyond repair? How can we set a new, sustainable, healthy course for the people, animals, and the land?

Another Study Finds Common Pesticide Causing Harm to Bees

Researchers with Lund University in Sweden found that wild bee populations exposed to a class of neuro-active, nicotine-based systemic insecticides known as Neonicotinoids had a reduction in density, less reproduction and colonies that did not experience growth.

The “Neonics” are a class of pesticides which have previously been linked to declines in bee populations. They were developed in 1991 and commercial use began in the mid-1990s. Around 2006 commercial beekeepers began reporting what has become known as colony collapse disorder— entire colonies of bees died off with no obvious cause. The disorder has been reported in commercial colonies all over the world. Several studies have implicated Neonics, which are used to kill insects harmful to crops.

The Swedish scientists conducted the study in the wild, the first of its kind. They examined 16 patches of land with canola seeds, half of which were sprayed with the pesticide and the other half which were not sprayed. The researchers found that wild bees displayed negative health effects while honeybee populations, which pollinate crops with assistance from humans, did not display the illness. A second study found that in laboratory tests bees are not deterred by the pesticide but may in fact prefer crops sprayed with the chemicals. This could indicate an addiction to the nicotine in the pesticides. Both studies were published in the journal Nature.

The study’s lead author Maj Rundlof  said the reduction in bee health was  “more dramatic than I ever expected. Rundlof  told Reuters that the bees sprayed with the pesticide also had not gained any significant weight when compared to the normal colonies.

David Fischer, director of pollinator safety for neonicotinoid manufacturer Bayer CropScience, said the study was faulty, accusing Rundlof and her team of using “an overdose” of the pesticide. However, Rundlof said the dosages used came from recommendations in Bayer CropScience documents.

Although Rundlof’s study marks the first time the effects of Neonics on bees in the wild were analyzed, the pesticides have previously been linked to a number of health issues for the bee population.

In July 2014 Dutch researchers published a study in the journal Nature which found a strong correlation between pesticides measured in surface freshwater and lower population growth rates of 14 species of birds in the Netherlands. The study suggests the bird population may be drinking infected water or feeding their offspring infected insects.

Twenty nine scientists from four continents spent five years researching eight hundred published studies that examined the effect of Neonics on ecosystems that support food production and wildlife. Their research was published in the journal Environment Science and Pollution Research. The Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and  Ecosystems (WIA) was produced by Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. The Task Force was formed in response to concerns about the impact of systemic pesticides on biodiversity and ecosystems. ”

The team said their study was, “the single most comprehensive study of Neonics ever undertaken”. The scientists research found that the Neonics are as great a risk to the environment as the previously banned DDT. In some cases the effects were found to be 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT.